Havre de Grace Elementary School pupils riding school bus No. 103 had some atypical companions while traveling to school Monday on their first day of the 2013-2014 school year: top county and Harford County Public Schools officials.
Officials offered greetings such as "Good morning," "Hi," and "It's like a surprise party!" to the children as they boarded.
Most of the pupils clustered in the back and traded jokes and compared snacks in their school lunches.
Other lucky children shared seats with county and school officials who talked with them about their feelings on the new school year.
"Because they want to see the new kids," second grader Jordan Wagner said when asked his thoughts on sharing the bus with the adults.
"I love school," said Jordan, who sat with two of his friends toward the rear of the bus. He proudly announced "Ms. Spilman" is his teacher and said his favorite part of school is "when we go play outside."
The grown-ups riding the bus, which was driven by Carol Ranieri, included Interim Superintendent Barbara Canavan, Harford County Executive David Craig, Board of Education President Nancy Reynolds and school board member Alysson Krchnavy, and 2013 Harford County Teacher of the Year Kristin Schaub, a teacher at Havre de Grace.
Central office administrators Susan Brown, acting executive director of curriculum and assessment, Angela Morton, executive director of elementary school performance, Laurie Namey, supervisor of equity and cultural proficiency, and Phil Snyder, supervisor of accountability, were also on the bus.
Ranieri pulled up in front of the school after completing her route, and Patrick Ernst, a math coach, jumped on wearing Mickey Mouse ears on his head.
"Ladies and gentlemen, have a great day," Ernst exclaimed. "We have a party starting!"
The children on bus 103 and other students, along with their parents who were walking them in, were treated to the sights and sounds of school staff cheering and waving maracas, and Assistant Principal Ron Wooden with a megaphone welcoming them as party music played in the background.
Principal Renee Villareal hugged children as they came through the school lobby, and she and all other school staff were wearing plastic Mickey Mouse ears.
Havre de Grace administrators also took the school and county leaders on a tour of the school after the bus ride.
'Imagine, innovate and inspire'
Wooden and Villareal explained that the Mickey Mouse ears reflected this year's theme for Havre de Grace Elementary: "Imagine, innovate and inspire."
Villareal said "Walt Disney popped up in every one of those words" when she and Wooden conducted searches on the Internet regarding the "Imagine, innovate and inspire" theme.
"As a result, we took the Mickey Mouse ears as our mantra," she said.
The mouse ears could be seen on the heads of teachers, office staff and custodians Monday.
"We want kids to feel wowed every time they walk in our building," Villareal said.
Wooden said children at Havre de Grace Elementary are welcomed in the same manner each day, a method of "energizing them, getting them ready to learn."