Students at Gentry Middle School saw some new faces in the lunch line recently.
Members of the county school board visited the middle school and even served lunch in the cafeteria. Among those from Surry County Schools was Dr. Travis Reeves school system superintendent.
On a yearly basis the Board of Education visits all 19 schools in the district. Board members spend several hours at each school for a meeting with school officials, a tour of the school and to serve lunches to the students.
“The board likes to serve lunch to the students,” said Sonia Dickerson, director of communications. “They feel this is the best way to be engaged with each child at the school for the short amount of time they have during the day.”
Gentry principal Brandon Whitaker and assistant principal Jenny Key brought together a panel of sixth to eighth graders. The children shared their individual stories with the board, including “the good and not so good,” said Whitaker.
“I really felt this was the best way for the board to get to hear from the students,” he said, believing that this is something that doesn’t happen often enough. The board usually is hearing from the teachers or parents rather than from ones who are there to be educated.
One story that stood out to Whitaker came from seventh-grader Josh Barber. Josh shared with the board that he was particularly interested in becoming a game designer. Reeves took upon himself to later introduce Josh to Lucas Gillispie, director of academic and digital learning.
During the time the student spent with Gillispie, Barber is now more aware of the opportunities available to him within the school system and how he can pursue his dream.
“Without the board visiting, Josh would have never had that opportunity and might not have known all the great possibilities in our school system,” said Whitaker.
During their visit, the board members also sat down with the administrative team to review how the school is doing with daily routines and operations and how they make make decisions as administrators. This was especially important at Gentry Middle School since both Whitaker and Key are new in their positions.
“We have to work as a team,” explained Whitaker. The principal believes it is important to not label each other but instead make decisions together for the best interest of the students and faculty.
“We each have to be well-rounded, even if that means going outside of our comfort zone.”
Also, the board and administrators are reviewing and discussing the previous year’s testing data with each school to be visited.
The highlight of the annual school visits, according to Clark Goings, board vice chairman, is serving lunches.
“Serving lunch gives me the opportunity to joke and laugh with the students as they come through the lunch line.”
Also, Goings enjoys working with the child nutrition staff.
“They seem glad that we are there, and they always make the board members feel welcome.” Goings explained how honored he was to serve on the school board and how he enjoys working with the superintendent, board members, teachers and staff.
Each school gets excited when it is time for the school board to visit, according to Whitaker. It’s a chance for the schools to showcase their students and their work.
“The board has to make a lot of decisions each day about all of us, I think it’s great they take the time to visit each school and learn as much as possible. It’s difficult to make a decision about something when you haven’t had the opportunity to experience what it’s all about.” said Whitaker.
Reach Eva Queen at (336) 415-4739 or on Twitter @MtAiryNewsEva