For Marcus Wilkes, the first day of school is a new beginning.
Whatever happened the previous year is in the past, the Jonesboro High School freshman says, and each new school year is a chance for each student to create their own path.
“Going back to school as a ninth grader, it’s the first day deciding what the rest of my life is going to mean,” Wilkes said. “My favorite part of going back to school, right out of summer, is getting a fresh start. Any year, you can start a new reputation for yourself, no matter what happened last year.”
Wearing a Jordan Brand sweater and toting a duffle bag with football gear in it, Wilkes was one of more than 54,000 students who returned to Clayton County Public Schools on Monday. At Jonesboro High, about 1,350 students poured in out of cars and buses, wearing red, black and white polos.
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Felicia Brown, who is beginning her sixth year as Jonesboro High’s principal, is excited about the school’s new Political Leadership Program. It is based on critical and disciplinary thinking, and designed to give students an intellectual foundation to influence public policies.
The program is open to only freshman and made up of about 30 students, Brown said.
“Our teachers are prepared to make sure that their lessons are engaging,” Brown said. “Attendance is extremely important for us. We want to always have a positive culture and climate.”
Esteylin Salmeron reflects the culture that Jonesboro High is trying to establish. While she admits that she’s nervous about algebra this year, the 11th grader said she’s looking forward to the school year because she loves social studies and wants to be a cheerleader.
“The teachers here are really great,” Salmeron said. “They focus on what we need and how we need it.”
Salmeron is beginning her second year at Jonesboro High after moving to Clayton County from Atlanta. With less than two years of high school left, she’s already thinking about college. She wants to go to Tennessee State University and study child therapy.
Across the street at James Jackson Elementary School, college isn’t on most kids’ minds just yet, but they’re still dressed for success.
Landon Banks showed up ready for first grade wearing a blue polo, khakis, white Converses and a Falcons backpack. His mother, Keea, says he’s in developmental classes at Jackson Elementary and she’s very happy with his teachers and the hands-on learning he’s getting.
“I’m excited to find out what they’ll be learning this year,” she said. “The teachers here are really great. The one he has, she’s calm, patient and she works well with him.”
Jermaine Williams was ready for his first day of school too. Beginning kindergarten, he was excited to connect with his friends and play with them. His mother, Alisha, said she likes Jackson Elementary because of their art and music programs.
The school has a new principal this year in Dr. William C. Greene. He’s spent 25 years working in Clayton Schools, but this is his first as an elementary school principal. He was previously the principal at Mundy’s Mill High School.
Having a 17-month-old child of his own, he’s excited to work with younger students again, he says.
“I love the fact that I’m able to work with the little ones and grow them,” Greene said. “I’m excited to see the process at an earlier age.”
Jackson Elementary actually houses two schools currently, hosting classes for the Kay Pace School of the Arts. With that, the building holds about 1,100 students. The Kay Pace School of the Arts will relocate to M.D. Roberts Middle School in January though, leaving Jackson Elementary with about 600 students.
But no matter the size of the classroom or where the students come from, Greene is trying to ensure that each student coming through Jackson Elementary are successful.
“I’m excited about the direction of our district, honestly. We’re talking about making sure that our students are high-performing, and that’s in every aspect,” Greene said. “Sometimes people think that, depending upon various variables, students’ success will depend upon where they’re born or how much money a parent has. Our job is to make sure that each child is as successful as possible.”Read more about the first day of school today in Gwinnett and Fulton counties