By CHRIS EVERSOLE
When Mustang schools open next Friday, the school district will experience a variety of changes.
The biggest change will be the opening of Central Middle School, a 100,000-square-foot, two story building on S.W. 44th Street that can accommodate 700 students.
A new science academy, a free-standing building on the high school campus, will open several weeks late, due to delays in the concrete curing because of heavy rains in the spring.
Mustang Public Schools expects 400 to 700 new students this year.
It can’t pinpoint the exact number until later because some students who are registered won’t attend, and some will show up unexpectedly, officials said.
A total of 195 new teachers will join the district, due in part to the opening of the new middle school.
The raises that the district has offered over the past two years — bringing starting teachers to $41,220 from $32,510 – helped recruit high quality teachers, Superintendent Charles Bradley said.
“The raises made a tremendous difference,” he said.
Bradley is focused on maintaining the sense of community within the school district as it grows.
He emphasized this theme during a recent leadership retreat.
“In the retreat, we focused on relationships first and foremost,” he said.
The school district is intent upon communicating with parents, and it employs robocalls, emails and social media to do so.
Mustang teachers go out of their way to welcome new students, Bradley said.
“The teachers try to make the new kids feel like they’re in a comfortable, safe place,” he said.
Teachers also are alert to helping students who seem out of sorts and may be experiencing trauma, such as their parents going through a divorce or experiencing a long-term illness, Bradley said.
The superintendent serves as the school district’s primary ambassador to the community.
“We don’t have any grand events to involve the community,” he said.
“What I do is more informal, like showing up at meetings of groups such as the American Legion, Kiwanis and the chamber of commerce.”
The schools are cooperating with the Legion in having students raise money to replace and repair many of the 135 flags and flagstaffs in the Legion’s Avenue of Flags.
“This is the type of thing that brings about a sense of community,” Bradley said.