Richardson weighs in on the year for PC district

Dec. 29—As 2022 comes to a close, the year is ending for most establishments. However, for the schools across Pulaski County, they're only halfway through. Superintendent of Pulaski County Schools Pat Richardson shared his perspective of the school year so far and where he thinks they're headed.

"We are halfway through what I hope to be a normal school year," said Richardson. "Seems like we moved past the majority of the problems with the pandemic. We are still seeing a slight dip in student attendance. However we're rebounding the last week before Christmas. We were between 92 and 93 percent as our attendance numbers continue to climb. Just really excited to get a half school year in, and I'm sure it will be spring before we know it."

The years spent under quarantine were tough for many students, and a lot of teachers noticed a dip in grades and also noticed some behavioral issues as students readjusted back from in-home learning to in-person. Richardson was quite positive in the actions the district is taking to ensure the success of students.

"I think as we continue to go through this school year, we're trying to address the social-emotional needs of students," said Richardson. "One of our focuses all year is trying to get students back to where they were pre-pandemic with behavior and coping skills and getting back to doing schoolwork and all the things that go into the social-emotional realm of learning for students. We have shown great progress as far as academically. I feel like we're as strong as we were pre-pandemic. Our staff and our students are working very hard academically. As we take our midyear assessments, we're seeing positives across the board with those assessments. So I feel really good about what they're accomplishing in the classroom."

The board recently enacted a system where students and teachers self-report on how they're performing in school and how the school is addressing their needs. So far, reports have come back positive, and Richardson hopes this trend will continue.

As far as what caused the students' behavioral changes, Richardson chalked it up to the environmental change.

"I think it's just getting back into routines," said Richardson. "Those are things that we've had to establish. When we've had sort of abnormal school for two straight years, we're dealing with those types of behaviors. Especially in our younger kids, they weren't in classrooms as much during the pandemic, so those K, 1, 2 children those social-emotional learning can present as challenges, but I feel like we're doing very well."

And for teachers? Richardson feels the same way as he did with the students, and echoed the positivity he felt and praised the faculty for their commitment.

"I think the majority of our teachers, they're just happy to get back to teaching school. They've been very focused, our staff has been very focused on instruction. I'm just very pleased with the staff and what they've accomplished so far," said Richardson.

As far as the not-so-fun subject of budget, Richardson touched on the ESSER money which was awarded to schools to help finance large projects. Richardson warned that the supply of this funding was finite and he anticipated a "shortfall" once the supply was fully drained.

He, however, promised this would not impact perhaps the most important aspect of school budget—teacher salaries.

"Building project money and teacher raise money, they're two different pots of money," said Richardson. "I'm hoping that we will continue to fund teacher raises and staff raises as we can. I think that our board has done a very good job building a budget as far as how to do that."

As for the future, Richardson hopes to remodel Northern Elementary, something which he called "long overdue."

Ultimately, he calls the year so far "successful" and is confident in the success of the district.