New Ann Arbor superintendent visits schools on first day of class
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Hovering outside the door of a kindergarten classroom at Logan Elementary School in Ann Arbor, a set of parents watched carefully as their daughter participated in a group activity.
Also in the classroom was the new superintendent of Ann Arbor Public Schools, Jeanice Kerr Swift, sitting in a child-sized chair at a table, watching the students interact with their teacher on the first day of school.
As she quietly excused herself from the classroom, Swift noticed the man and the woman watching their daughter. They were from China, the man said, and they were worried that their daughter would have difficulty understanding what was going on.
"Don't worry," Swift said to the couple reassuringly. "Your daughter is going to do just fine."
Tuesday marked the first day of school in Ann Arbor and the second full day on the job for Swift.
Swift spent all of Tuesday touring 11 Ann Arbor Public School buildings—greeting staff, parents and students with a warm smile and asking everyone to call her by her first name.
In the morning, she was on the northeast side of town at Huron High School, Clague Middle School and a host of elementary schools: Logan, Thurston, King and Northside.
At Logan Elementary, many parents lingered in the school after their students had entered their classrooms. Swift stopped in at a coffee session that Principal Terra Webster was having with about 45 parents.
Swift told the group how good it was to see that many parents in the school and how valuable it was to see so many parents engaged in their students’ education.
Together with AAPS Deputy Superintendent for Instructional Services Alesia Flye, Swift stepped in to several classrooms at Logan to greet them and meet the teachers.
She gave individual attention to several students—giving high-fives and offered friendly comments about all of the pink outfits she saw on the first day of school.
At Thurston Elementary School, Swift introduced herself at a parent meeting where school officials were giving a briefing on school security policies: All exterior doors are locked, with the exception of one main door, and classroom doors are locked during the school day.
She complimented the school as “beautiful” and welcomed the parents back to a new year.
"I noticed the students weren't in the hallway—they're all right where they should be in the classroom," Swift said.
In her interactions with parents, Swift asked each for his or her name and for the ages of their children — including the children that weren’t in class yet and had been brought in strollers.
In the halls as she walked out of Thurston, Swift took the initiative to greet every teacher and parent and wave to lines of students traveling from one class to the next.
By mid-morning Swift was on her fifth school visit when she arrived at King Elementary.
King Principal Kathy Morhous gave Swift a tour of the entire school and made sure to introduce her to every teacher and student teacher.
Many teachers at King praised Swift’s remarks that she gave a week ago at a welcome-back event for AAPS teachers and staff.
Of the 450 students at the school, about one-fifth of them speak English as a second language, Morhous said. Most of those students are from China, Japan and Korea, though students at the school speak a total of 38 languages, Morhous said.
Swift asked teachers at Thurston about their class sizes — most were in the range of 24 to 28 students. Throughout her visit, Swift took notes on her iPhone.
She also asked a fifth- grade class how many of them had traveled abroad over the summer. Almost all of them raised their hands.
Tuesday afternoon she visited Community High School, Lawson Elementary, Roberto Clemente Student Development Center, Bryant Elementary and Allen Elementary.
As a part of her introduction to the school district, Swift has said that she will visit every school and meet with the parents of students at each building.