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Getting acquainted
Parents, kids flock to school open houses
Mattie Lively Elementary School principal Todd Williford, right, catches up with fifth grader Kyle Hendry, 10, and grandparents Marcia and Chris Parkerson during Tuesday's open house. While Hendry is a returning Mattie Lively student, Williford was his principal when previously a student at Sallie Zetterower. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

    Thousands of Bulloch County children were back in school Tuesday, but not yet for classes.
    With the start of the 2013-14 school year still two days away, parents and students throughout the district flocked to open house events, which allow teachers and administrators a chance to meet with parents and inform them on what to expect during the upcoming academic year.
    Open houses also give parents the chance to see the classrooms in which their children will spend the better part of the next nine months.
    “It is a rewelcoming and rebirth of a new year,” Mattie Lively Elementary School teacher/speech therapist Ashlee Mitchell said. “Teachers get to meet parents face-to-face and we get to acclimate the kids a bit before they show up on that first day.”
    At Mattie Lively, hundreds of parents flowed through school doors at the start of the event, just before 4 p.m.
    The focus for many guests was on the school’s most notable summer change: the appointment of a new principal.
    Several parents took advantage of the opportunity to meet Todd Williford, the new head of Mattie Lively, who stood in the atrium to welcome visitors.
    “There have been some adjustments in getting to know the new staff, the new faces, and new sets of parents. But I will say that they have done an excellent job of welcoming me here. It has just been great,” Williford said. “We have gotten a lot of support from the PTO and people involved in the school. And the staff has been delightful.”
    Williford, a 20-year veteran of Bulloch County Schools and the principal of Sallie Zetterower Elementary for the last 12 years, was tapped to replace former principal Jennifer Quick.
    Quick stepped down from the position at the end of the 2012-13 school year to return to teaching.
    Kate Brannen, who attended the open house with her sons Ryan, 10, and Whitt, 5, said the Bulloch County Board of Education could not have made a better choice.
    “We are ecstatic to have Mr. Williford here,” Brannen said. “It answered prayers.”
    For most of the evening Tuesday, parents and students spent time in classrooms meeting their new teachers. First-time visitors also wandered the halls, admiring the now 1-year-old building.
    “I came with my daughter and her sons to see who their teachers are, and to see this beautiful school,” said Freiya Brown, a grandparent and retired teacher. “I had never been in this school. It is beautiful. It is gorgeous and really neat.”
    The school year officially begins for all Bulloch County students Thursday.
    Williford said he is eager to begin.
    “We are looking forward to getting some students in the building and getting on to what we are all about — educating children,” he said. “We want to do what is right for kids and help bring out the best in them.”
    Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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