The start of the 2019-2020 school year will have a different look to it this year as Superintendent Sean Bulson settles into his second year leading the more than 37,000 students and more than 5,000 employees.
The entire school system — faculty, staff, students and parents — is invited to celebrate the end of summer and start of school with an End of Summer Fest during the Aberdeen IronBirds game Friday, Aug. 30.
On Friday, Aug. 23, Bulson will gather all the school staff together in two sessions for a kickoff at the APGFCU Arena at Harford Community College.
And on the first day this year, Tuesday, Sept. 3, Bulson will join the Million Father March at Bakerfield Elementary School in Aberdeen rather than participate in the traditional first-day school bus ride.
End of Summer Fest
Vendors will be on-site prior to the start of the game and there will be an invitation to students to join a pre-game parade on the field.
“This parade will be different from Kids Run the Bases,” IronBirds General Manager Matt Slatus said. “The students will parade around the warning track in front of their family and friends while we show photos and videos of different HCPS activities on our gigantic in-stadium video board.”
Similar school-related videos and photos will be shown on the outfield video screen between innings as well, Bulson said.
Fireworks will follow the game.
Bulson said he was invited to meet with Cal Ripken Jr., owner of the IronBirds, to talk about possible partnerships, which led to a tour of the stadium for Bulson and Chief of Administration Eric Davis.
“It’s going to be a celebration of the end of summer, a celebration of kids and families,” Bulson said. “We also want to have a place where we can invite Harford County families together.”
Bulson and Davis have hosted back-to-school fairs, big community events in other places they have worked together, but said they weren’t able to take that on this year while dealing with the fallout from position cuts, so when the IronBirds approached and said they would do most of the organizing, “it was a good fit for us,” Bulson said. “We’re really excited to partner with them.”
New teachers start the new school year on Tuesday, and returning teachers head back to the classroom on Thursday.
Next Friday, Bulson will host a pair of two-hour kickoff rallies — one in the morning and one in the afternoon — at the APGFCU Arena.
“I want to bring all employees together to celebrate the teamwork and collaboration of our nearly 5,000 employees,” Bulson said. “Everybody that works here contributes to our students’ success, so I want to make sure they have a chance to hear from one voice about the work we’re doing and how we can work together to help the students achieve what we need them to achieve.”
The superintendent hopes to create a fair-like environment for the event, the type of which hasn’t been done in Harford before.
Teaching-related vendors will be onsite and staff will have time to check out the giveaways or sign up for various things.
The presentation will include the Pledge of Allegiance and national anthem by students and videos for and about employees, but the “main attraction” will be Bulson’s the keynote address “setting the tone for the year, describing the work we’re doing, but also thanking the staff for the collaboration they have done and will continue to do,” he said.
The goal is to celebrate the staff.
“Everyone in the organization needs to be valued and needs to feel valued, that’s a big part of my goal," Bulson said. “We’ve already seen the collaboration across all elements of the school system and I think this is a way to celebrate how they all contribute.”
Million Father March
Bulson was invited last year to join the first Million Father March at Bakerfield Elementary, but didn’t want to change a “long-standing and very successful” tradition in Harford County of riding the school bus with students on the first day of classes.
This year, however, he wants to help highlight and celebrate such a good cause.
“Family engagement of any kind is hugely beneficial for students,” Bulson said, “in particular engaging fathers, just because in general that’s not the group as likely to be seen at parent events.”
Parents are the students’ first teachers and an event like the Million Father March is consistent with programs such as the new Parent Academy.
“Our goal is to ensure everyone is learning. We need parents learning how to better serve our kids, staff learning how to better serve our kids and we need our students learning the most,” Bulson said. “We’re celebrating all the learning that goes on.”
The first Parent Academy workshop, “Instagram... ate my daughter, my son won’t stop playing Fortnite,” is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19 at Bel Air High School, 100 Heighe St.
Dr. Leonard Sax will talk about the addictive characteristics of social media and video games, discussing topics such as how much is too much time playing video games; which games are OK for kids, which are not; how time on social media increase the likelihood of depression and why it’s worse for girls; and what is the right age for a child to have a smartphone.