Fairfield Ledger
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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 23, 2017

New personnel join Fairfield schools

By Vicki Tillis, Ledger lifestyles editor | Aug 11, 2017

The Fairfield Community School District is gearing up for the new school year that begins Sept. 5.

Mark Branch and Teresa Kite, although hired late during the last school year, will be staring their first full school year this fall in auxiliary services. And teacher Justin Copeland will be starting his 11th year in the district in a new position.

Copeland has taught in the Fairfield school district for 10 years, with the last six as a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Fairfield Middle School. This year, he will be the 9th- through 12th-grade success coordinator at Fairfield High School.

“I meet daily with students working on strategies to help them be successful in the classroom and in their daily life,” Copeland explained. “My focus will be on attendance, graduation rates and building positive relationships with the students of FHS.”

Copeland switched to the success coordinator position because he was at a point in his career where he was ready to try something new, he said.

“This position gave me a chance to work with students on a more personal level,” he continued. “I’m looking forward to this new experience.

“My first sixth-grade social studies class are seniors this year, so I’m also excited to start at FHS and visit my former students,” he added.

He and his wife Trisha live in Fairfield and have two sons, 5-year-old Kellen and 2-year-old Madden. Mrs. Copeland teaches fifth grade at FMS, and Mr. Copeland also coaches high school football.

Branch joined the Fairfield school district May 1 as the district’s new transportation director. Originally from Illinois, he came to Fairfield from the Burlington school district, and has 15 years of experience in the transportation field.

Branch explained his main job is to provide the safest means of transportation for Fairfield students.

“A child’s safety is our No. 1 concern,” he said. “We want to get the kiddos to and from school as safely as possible, while providing them with a good experience.”

To help the youngest, newest bus riders, Branch is bringing a system that he’s used in other school districts to help them find their buses at the bus hub.

Each child will wear a name tag with a color that corresponds to the color posted on the bus he or she rides, he explained.

“Most preschoolers and kindergartners know their colors before their numbers, and all of these buses are big and yellow so this color coding gives them an easier way to find their bus,” he continued, adding that the name tag and color also gives bus drivers a quick reference to double-check that the right kids are getting on the right bus. “After a couple of weeks, they’ll know. It should work pretty smoothly.”

If a child does need help finding his or her bus, Branch and other supervising adults, like Brian Stone and Tim Bartels, the Fairfield High School principal and associate principal, respectively, will be at the bus hub at FHS.

“There is always supervision at the bus hub, but we’ll have additional staff there the first few weeks,” Branch said.

The school district recently invested in routing software to help Branch plan the most efficient routes to get students to and from school.

“It’s a positive thing to help the district get the most bang for its buck,” said Branch. “It will help save funds and pay for itself.”

A few routes will be changing this year, mainly because of the Libertyville Elementary School closure and the switch from half-day preschool classes.

When the routes are set, Branch said each driver will receive a route list and will contact parents to pass along information about riding the bus. He also said a letter would be drafted to hand out to parents during the open house events Aug. 31 at Pence and Washington elementary schools or to be sent home with students on the first day of school Sept. 5.

According to Branch, the school district owns 30 buses; 17 of which are used on daily routes, while the remainder are used for field trips, sports, or other activities and as backups.

The district has one full-time mechanic to maintain the fleet, and if needed, Branch, who has been a mechanic all his life and has his own tools, helps out in the shop.

The transportation director’s duties also include overseeing the district’s 31 drivers and substitute drivers.

Teresa Kite, from Bonaparte, started her job as the secretary for the transportation director and the maintenance director April 18.

Kite brought several years of experience to Fairfield; she has worked as an elementary and high school secretary at Harmony school district.

In addition to general secretarial work, Kite also talks to parents about their bus concerns, helps schedule trips for school or sports and finds substitute bus drivers when regular drivers call in sick.

“It takes up a lot of time and keeps me very busy,” she said about her workload. “But I like working with the public. I talk to a lot of parents, and I love that.”

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