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School opens with renaissance

By Greg Gelpi

It's more than the start of a new school year. It's the renaissance of the Clayton County school system.

About 52,000 students are returning to Clayton County public schools today, welcomed back by members of the community to start the school system's renaissance.

The new school year brings new questions, said Greta Counts, the mother of Chelsea and Ch?la, twin eighth-graders at Kendrick Middle School.

"There are feelings of uncertainty, but change always excites me," Counts said, adding that many schools, including Kendrick have new principals. "I'm very close to my girls. I just think it's too early. I don't think the kids are in the mindset to go back to school."

She said, though, that she is confident in the "cohesive" staff at her children's school.

To ease the transition into a new school year, the school system is debuting Day One with the theme "Educational Renaissance: Rebirth, Revival, Renewal."

The program will unite the community and the school system as students return for the start of school. Through a partnership with the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce, volunteers will welcome students back at each school with a smile, a handshake and words of encouragement.

"From my standpoint, education is one of those cornerstones in the community," said Matt Carlson, the president and chief executive officer of the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce. "We knew right away that this is something we wanted to be part of. We have to take responsibility for tomorrow by taking care of our kids today."

The partnership between the school system and chamber is nothing new and demonstrates the business community's investment in youth, Carlson said.

"Some day they're going to be our employees," he said. "Some day they're going to be our CEOs."

Members of the chamber's business community are well represented in the school system through partners in education and other programs, Carlson said. Day One is a demonstration of this relationship.

The Day One program is modeled after a similar program from Superintendent Barbara Pulliam's previous school system in Minnesota.

"We want our kids to know that we love them, care about them and believe in them," Pulliam said. "I want this year to be spent taking pride in our schools and supporting our students. We are on the cusp of a renaissance in our school system."