OW!!! That is just about the only way to express how the 2010-2011 school year started.  In my 41 years of school work this just may be the best start ever.  Mineral County schools all opened uneventfully in a good way.  I visited several schools on Thursday where students were overwhelmingly happy to be back in school with their friends. 
John Haines, our transportation director, made a similar observation.  After all students had been transported to and from school on the first day, John called to tell me that all kids were home and he had actually received no calls that day relative to transportation problems. 
We now have two more “first days” — the first day for kindergarten on Tuesday, August 24, and the first day for pre-kindergarten students on Monday, August 30.  Although these are the first days these students come to school.  The teachers have been making home visits in preparation for those initial school experiences. 
The home visit portions of our kindergarten and pre-kindergarten programs are extremely beneficial to both the teachers and the parents.  A lot of those anxious moments are settled for the parents.  The students become acquainted with their teachers and are happy to recognize them when they arrive for their first day in school.  We expect these next “first days” to be equally uneventful in that same good way.
One part of the first few days of school is the issuing of textbooks.  A couple of days before school stated I was at the bus garage while Brenda Sidley, coordinator in our department of support services, and Rob Woy, assistant superintendent for instruction, were counting and preparing textbooks for distribution to schools. 
As I looked at the mass of books I couldn’t help but ask “what would the cost of textbooks be for a 4th grade student, a 6th grade student, and an 11th grade student?” 
The answer was staggering even to me.  The 4th grade textbooks cost $309.71, the cost for a 6th grader is $486.13, and the cost for a high school junior is $542.28.  We have 301 4th graders, 341 6th graders and 320 11th grade students.  The cost for textbooks just for these three grades is $432,522.64.  These are the costs for core classes.  In the high schools, the textbooks costs for higher level courses and AP courses range from $108.00 to $170.00 each.  In West Virginia we purchase new textbooks for each subject every six years and they are supplied free of charge to every student. 
There is a lot of discussion occurring in the education community locally and nationally about the future of textbooks in schools.  Even today, they are just one resource. 
Many classrooms also utilize interactive textbooks, “smart boards,” desktop and laptop computers, and even electronic readers
such as the Amazon Kindle, which itself costs approximately $300.00 not including the cost of downloading books.  Classrooms today, truly, are not the same classrooms that many of us attended, nor should they be.  There are just so many new resources available to reach our students and to extend their learning.
In the news media lately there have been several articles devoted to the “school supply lists” that many school districts endorse.  Some of those lists being discussed include items such as the typical school supplies that many districts require (paper, pencils, pens, tape, glue, etc).  The new lists that were discussed included such items as toilet tissue, light bulbs, detergent, bleach, duplicating paper, disinfectants, tissues, and many more such items.  Those districts stated that they are finically distressed and simply could not afford those items.  I’m very happy to say that Mineral County eliminated those lists several years ago.  We operate with a sound budget and do not have parents furnish such items in order to open school.  Each time I read and listen to media reports such as those described above I want to thank the citizens of this fine county for their continuing support of the school system and to the boys and girls who attend our schools.