If everyone reading this will volunteer (the minimum time commitment is only 30 minutes twice a month) we can blow that goal out of the water and help provide mentors for most of the struggling students in our community.

I’ve had many first days of school (my own and then those as a principal and now as your superintendent), and they are all exciting. This year, we’re looking forward to welcoming back approximately 28,000 students to our schools, and we’re celebrating their hard work and the commitment of their teachers. As you already may have heard, Bay District Schools is just three points shy of being an A district — I like to call it A minus 3 — and that’s thanks to the hard work of every member of our team and the incredible support of our community. I am also so very proud of the diligence and dedication of our students. They set goals for themselves, and they achieved them!

This year, as you get ready to bring your children back to school, or those precious kindergartners to school for the very first time, please take a moment to thank and appreciate our teachers. Teaching is a tough job these days, and a smile, a thank you or a pat on the back can go a long way toward making someone feel appreciated. While talking about people to be appreciated, I would be remiss if I didn’t note how lucky we are to have dedicated administrators and support staff. We truly have a fantastic team, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still need some volunteers. Please reach out to your school’s administrative team if you can contribute, even a few minutes a week, to help out in a classroom or with an event or a fundraiser.

Safety continues to be our primary focus this year, and every campus will now have a uniformed, armed officer. Our secondary schools will continue to be covered by the deputies from the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, while our elementary schools will have officers from our own Bay District Schools department. Please know these officers are committed to the safety of your children, and our staff and I have every confidence they will do whatever it takes to protect them.

As we continue to take care of our facilities, you also may notice some construction throughout the district. Our School Board was very proactive and borrowed $5 million to “fast track” school hardening projects that we had on a previous five-year plan. We could not wait five years to complete these controlled access projects. So, currently we have 16 front office and perimeter renovation projects in construction or in design. Please “pardon our mess” while this needed work is underway.

Not a day goes by that people don’t ask me how they can help our schools and, most importantly, our students and I never cease to be humbled by the generosity of our community. If you’ve seen the news recently, you’ve seen the incredible school supply drives underway and the churches, companies, and individuals who have stepped forward to ensure all of our children have what they need for the first day of school and beyond. But school supplies aren’t all we need. Our children need positive adult role models, and so we’re still recruiting mentors for our Elevate Bay program. We hope to have 1,000 mentors in place by the end of this school year (we’re about half-way there now). If everyone reading this will volunteer (the minimum time commitment is only 30 minutes twice a month) we can blow that goal out of the water and help provide mentors for most of the struggling students in our community. I truly believe that one caring adult, invested in the life of one needy child, is how we are going to change the world in which we live, and I encourage all of you to join us in that journey. You can get more information about Elevate Bay from our coordinator, Stacey Legg, by email at Leggsl@bay.k12.fl.us.

The 2018-19 school year is going to be a great one, and I look forward to partnering with you in your child’s education.

Editor’s note: Bill Husfelt is superintendent of Bay District Schools.