SIOUX CITY | Lots of students begin a school year by wearing their absolute favorite outfit, in line with the saying, you are what you wear.

Solomon Walker, a fourth-grade student at Loess Elementary School in Sioux City, said he was definitely wearing his best pieces Wednesday, with black Nike athletic shorts and a tie-dye blue shirt. In the hallway, Walker briefly caught a glimpse of district Superintendent Paul Gausman, who was wearing a crisp blue suit and paisley pattern tie, although Gausman said it isn't necessarily his fave attire.

Gausman motored his way through all 22 schools in the district, as he continued his practice of checking in at all the sites to give support and making sure that the first day proceeds smoothly. In this social media era, he also shared photos on his personal Twitter account.

"I am tweeting my way through the day," the superintendent said.

Gausman's stop at Loess Hills came at 9:40 a.m., and it was his ninth school appearance in less than two hours after the start of classes in the elementary, middle and high schools. About 15,000 students will get educational services in the year ahead in the city's public schools.

"It has been an incredible day so far. I started my day a little after 5:30 a.m.," Gausman said. That's when he saw the battalion of school bus drivers head out, saying he likes to "wave them off" in the quest of safely delivering pupils to school.

A lot of times Wednesday, Gausman used a phrase often heard on Jan. 1.

"In education, we get to say Happy New Year twice per year," said Gausman.

Many schools also began the 2017-18 year on Wednesday, the first day allowed in Iowa following a change by state lawmakers a few years ago that pushed the opening date closer to Labor Day so families would have more time for summer vacations.

At Bishop Heelan Catholic High School in Sioux City, 509 students started classes, as served by 57 school employees. Heelan Principal Chris Bork said it is great to have students and staff back, with a highly anticipated event just a few months off too.

"We’re especially excited to transition our students and teachers into Heelan’s new Academic Classroom Building after Christmas break," Bork said.

"Students will return Jan. 3 to their new classrooms and may take a couple of days to get settled. The new classrooms attach to our Fine Arts Center and include science teaching labs, a much larger media center, state-of-the-art technology and air conditioning that will be appreciated by both students and staff.”

Back at Loess Hills Elementary, as Walker or fellow fourth-grader Audrina Rouillard espied Gausman, neither knew what a superintendent does. Minutes later, in an explanation to second grade students in an art class, Loess Hills Principal John Beeck said, "This man right here is the boss of all the students."

Rouillard gave a rousing summary of Loess Hills, a school with a special thrust of computer programming.

"You can code here. You can learn a lot of stuff here, like reading, science, math. You get recess, you get lunches. You can have a lot of friends here and the teachers are really nice, the principal is really nice," Rouillard said.

Gausman said he doesn't like to interrupt classes for more than a quick pop-in. In the art class of Emily Owings, the teacher did a quick-paced interview of Gausman in front of the pupils, as she was also laying out class expectations.

"Do you solve problems?" Owings asked.

"I solve problems every day," Gausman replied.

"Do you like your job?" Owings continued.

"I love my job," the superintendent answered.

Gausman looked on as Owings lined up the 19 students to leave the class.

Owings again used quick, staccato instructions as the students exited.

"Face front."

"Hands down."

"Roll out."

"Have a great first day of second grade," Owings concluded.


County and education reporter

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