Wednesday morning for DeSoto County Schools Supt. Cory Uselton started early, busy and remained that way.
As parents and students were getting ready for the first day of school, Uselton was spending his morning before the crack of dawn visiting a number of the school campuses, doing first day of school interviews for local media and eventually finding his way to his Central Services office, where he sat down, took a moment… and watched video on his computer screen.
It was all done for a stated purpose however. You see, Uselton has access to cameras placed at strategic locations on every DeSoto County Schools campus, primary school to high school.
He can monitor the progress, the movement of buses, students, parents and staff, and with a radio can direct staff to areas that need help, including district staff.
“We have four Central Services employees that go out in the morning and in the afternoon,” Uselton said. “Each of them are assigned an early school zone and a late school zone. As soon as the traffic clears out in the early zone they head to their next area. That way we’ve got a district-level person at each of the zones in case there are issues that arise where I need to send somebody to a specific spot.”
The first day of school in Mississippi’s largest public school district Wednesday provided special challenges with a higher-than-normal influx of parents, children and vehicles crowding the school lots and nearby streets and roadways.
“The challenge of the first day is that nobody’s in a routine,” Uselton said. “Everyone’s got to get into a routine with parents and children that are going to a new school from where they were last year. That can be going from primary school to elementary or elementary to middle school, or middle school to high school.”
From his office in Hernando, Uselton has access to cameras in the parking lot, school entry way, commons area of every school in the district. Wednesday, he was checking to see if the flow of traffic was moving well and if needed direct staff in those locations.
If the superintendent noticed a lengthy line of parents and it appeared they were waiting on completing their registrations, they can call on a district employee to head that way and assist.
Uselton goes back after the fact and recheck areas where there were expected issues and see what exactly happened in those areas.
“A good example is the Lewisburg and Hernando areas with their early buses and lots of traffic,” said Uselton. We can go back and see how delayed they were as far as their start time. When you have an early school that’s delayed in their starts, it delays the buses in the next zone, which has a domino effect.”
Uselton is also able to organize the cameras by early and late starts to easily move from one school to the next.
DCS makes plans to easily handle the crush on the first day of classes in session.
“We do our part in the planning process and we can eliminate as many of those first day issues that are out there by being proactive,” said Uselton. “Then, that helps our principals, assistant principals and teachers focus on going over the first day of school procedures and starting instructions.”
Early Wednesday morning, few problems were observed as the start of the 2019-2020 school year got underway. Helping to make sure the first day of classes went that, Uselton was monitoring that progress from his “command center” in Hernando, ready to send out reinforcements where needed.
Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.