Ludington elementary principals reflect on first day.

January 5, 2022

From left: Brian Dotson, Tim Hanson, Jenn Mackey and Katie Eisinger.

Ludington elementary principals reflect on first day.

Oriole News is a presentation of Ludington Area School District in partnership with Mason County Press.

By Kate Krieger-Watkins, MCP correspondant. 

PERE MARQUETTE TOWNSHIP – The words community and collaboration continue to be popular buzz words when staff of the new Ludington Elementary School describe their excitement about moving into the new building on Bryant Road near Jebavy Drive. The new LES opened its doors to students on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022, and even though not everything went as smoothly as administrators had hoped, the excitement of students overshadowed most of the flaws and made to the day a memorable one.

“Students and staff were excited to be in our brand new building,” grades three through five principal, Brain Dotson said. “It felt great for all of us to finally be under one roof. Now that the students are in the building, it really feels like a school. Overall, it was a great day, but that didn’t come without a few challenges for us to overcome.”

The administrative team is made up of five staff members, Brian Dotson, third through fifth grade principal, Jenn Mackey, third through fifth grade assistant principal, Katie Eisinger, kindergarten through second grade principal, Tim Hanson, K-2 assistant principal and Sarah Cooper, preschool administrator. 

One of the largest hiccups the administrative team faced Tuesday was the student drop-off and pick-up procedures. With well over 1,000 students in one location, some taking buses and some being transported by parents or guardians, the administrative team has some glitches to work out to get the process moving faster, while maintaining safety for all those involved.

“With any new system, you can expect there to be some bumps in the road,” Eisinger said. “As we all get used to the new procedures, along with tweaks that we have made, it will run more efficiently. We knew drop-off and pick-up were going to be a challenge for us as we are dismissing such a large number of students. In the end, our ultimate goal is to ensure that every student gets to where they need to be in a safe manner. The next major goal is efficiency.”

The admin team issued a statement and apology Tuesday evening after the school day had wrapped stating that they were sorry for the long wait times during pick-up and that they are working steadily together to try and come up with alternative ways to make the entire transportation situation better. 

With any first day comes unexpected issues, but first days also bring about excitement and moments of discovery for students and staff.

“Staff members shared that their day went very well,” Dotson said. “Their students were so excited to be in their new spaces. This has been a project that we have watched develop for two years, and for the day to finally be here, staff were pleased with the end result. Most students were amazed with finally being able to attend this new school that we have all been talking about. Some students were nervous or anxious about the ‘unknowns’ of the day. It’s very similar to the first day of the school year.”

Busy making sure everything ran as smoothly as possible and putting out unexpected fires, Dotson and Eisinger still got to share in the buzz of the new building as well.

“I walked down the hall and spotted a first grader who needed some assistance getting to lunch,” Dotson said. “I gladly helped out and the young boy held my hand and told me about all the things he was excited about at the new school as we walked to the lunch room together.”

Eisinger said, “Yesterday, the best highlight was watching our staff (from four buildings) work as one. Everyone stepped in to help out to do whatever was needed. It was a humbling experience and one that made me proud to be an Oriole.”

With all preschool through fifth grade students in one place, administrators said they are very excited to see what type of team work will start to pop up around the building.

“Having all the elementary administrators together in one building has been a great experience,” Dotson said. “Although we all have our titles and grade bands we work with, it is a complete team effort between the five of us across all grade levels. The ability to get together and meet quickly is something that was never possible before. Collaboration and communication between administration has greatly increased which will benefit staff, students, and parents in the future.”

Administration on the same page, they are also looking forward to all the teachers to working together, even if they may not teach the same grade level.

“I am most excited about seeing the older students that I have been working with for so many years become mentors for younger students in the K-2 grades,” Dodson said. “I picture reading buddies, and mentors from our upper grade students in the future.”

Eisinger agreed, “I am excited about the opportunities that this building brings to our students, staff, district, and greater community. With us all being in one building, we will have so many opportunities for collaboration across the grade levels and within the departments. For example, with all kindergarten teachers being under one roof, they will have increased opportunities to collaborate. Our specials teachers are no longer in isolation as they can work collaboratively throughout the day. This is all new to us, but in the end will make us a stronger team and continue to improve outcomes for our students.”

Dotson and Eisinger said they want to remind the Ludington community that this is still very new, even though the process has been developing over the last two years. They want to reiterate that they all understand that this will take some getting used to, but they hope for the same sense of community that the old buildings had for so many years.

“While our community was a big supporter of the bond, we have heard the concern of losing the small community feeling that we had at Pere Marquette, Franklin, Lakeview, and Foster,” Dotson said. “Throughout the building design phase, we were intentional in creating the small grade level communities within a large building community. This is new to all of us. Developing plans for a large building is definitely a challenge. Our team is dedicated to getting this right and we will. It just might take some time. We appreciate everyone’s understanding and patience as we work through these processes. We are looking forward to a fantastic year together.”

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