No hitches in first day of classes

Students, along with a number of parents, file into the school after the opening bell of the school year at Raven Stream Elementary. (Chuck Kajer Photo)

If no news is good news, then the first day of school was full of good news in the New Prague Area Schools.

            “It was a real quiet first day,” said Superintendent Tim Dittberner, who took over as the head of the district in July after 10 years as middle school principal. “My secretary, Margaret Sticha, said it was the quietest start she’d seen in her 34 years with the district.”

            Dittberner said he spoke with all of the principals by mid-morning and made it to several of the schools during the day, and it seemed everything went well.

            That was the take that Lonnie Seifert, the new principal at New Prague High School had.

            “We had a few changes in our first day routine,” said Seifert, who had been assistance principal. He said this year administration met with each grade individually in the auditorium to go over changes in the student handbook. “We made it more personalized to each grade. The message is different for the seniors than it is for the freshmen. Basically, we talked about respect, whether it’s for staff, for the building or their fellow students. We asked the seniors to set the tone for the year.”

            Seifert said enrollment was up quite a bit from last year, and he and staff members experienced the usual first-day routine of class change requests and other administrative task.

            For Brad Gregor, who moved from principal at Eagle View Elementary to New Prague Middle School, the first day was exciting on a personal level.

            “Being back at the school where I spent 15 years as a teacher and assistant principal was special,” Gregor said.  “I enjoyed reconnecting with the kids. That made it a memorable day for me.”

            Will Remmert, the new principal at Eagle View said his first day went extremely well.

            “It’s all about making sure the kids come in to school, get through lunch, and get home like they’re supposed to,” Remmert said. “Once that goes smoothly, we can get to the meat of things.”

            He said as the “new guy” in the principal’s office, he made the effort of going into classrooms to read and to get to know the kids.

            “That was neat for me, and I appreciate the teachers who opened the doors to me that way,” he noted.

            “It was interesting to see how things work here, being used to a different system (he was a principal in the Mankato district).  I was extremely impressed with how things run here.”

            Dave Giesen, principal at Falcon Ridge Elementary agreed with Dittberner’s assessment on how smoothly things ran for the first day of school.

            “It was probably the best first day we’ve had in my three years here,” he said. “We had no problems with arrival, lunch and recess or dismissal. Those are usually the three things that cause problems the first few days.”

            Finally, at Raven Stream Elementary, Tony Buthe, the district’s Director of Educational Services, found himself cast into a different role. Principal Pat Pribyl took a medical leave of absence right before the start of teacher workshops and Buthe is filling in for him as acting principal for six to eight weeks.

            Everything went smoothly,” Buthe noted. “We have a very nice, veteran staff who continued to do their job.

            “It was fun to meet a lot of the parents who came in for the kindergarten open house.

            The district saw a slight decrease in enrollment overall in its three elementary schools, according to initial numbers compiled by the district. Eagle View and Falcon Ridge enrollment was down, but most of that was offset by an increase at Raven Stream.

            Meanwhile the high school and middle school saw an increase in enrollment, with the middle school topping 900 students for the first time. The high school has 1,221 students in the main building, with 43 students at the Alternative Learning Center upping the district’s 9-12 enrollment to 1,264.

            Overall, district enrollment is up by 0.4 percent, to 3,911. These are preliminary numbers for the first day of school. The district will set its official enrollment figures in October.