Soon, she’ll work in the cafeteria for a day and teach in one of the elementary schools’ second-grade classrooms for a day.
It’s part of a reward system she adopted this year to let school system staff know that their work is appreciated, Dryden said. She put the names of all employees – from maintenance workers, to bus drivers, to teachers – in a hat and drew three. The employees she drew were rewarded with a day off, and the superintendent filling in for them.
“We can’t really purchase things or do things to show our appreciation for what they do every day,” Dryden said. “I’ll come in and do it and they get a comp day and it doesn’t cost the school system a dime.”
At Ranburne High today, the employees loved it. As she walked through the halls, one employee called out, “Aren’t you supposed to be in the band room?” Another saw Dryden and said, “Oh, band teacher, at least you wore the right color today!” referring to her purple shirt. Purple and white are Ranburne’s school colors.
The day was fun, but it also provided valuable insight into the job and how her decisions as a superintendent affect the students and staff.
“I’m excited about it,” Dryden said. “I think it’s good for me to see what my teachers face every day.”
Principal Tim Ward agreed. He said he thinks the reward program is a good opportunity for Dryden to “take a step back and be in the trenches,” Ward said.
It will allow Dryden to build a rapport with the students, to get to know the Ranburne campus, and it will send a positive message to the school system employees, Ward said.
“It sends a signal that she’s not any different than we are,” Ward said. “She’s not going to ask us to do anything that she won’t do.”
Dryden hopes to bridge a gap between schools and the central office, whose administrators teachers may see as unapproachable, she said. By working in the schools with them, she hopes they will see she is easy to talk to.
“I really want to know what they’re thinking and how we can help,” Dryden said.
Dryden said she is unable to fill in for bus drivers because she lacks state certification. But she said she plans to ride along as the head of the transportation department substitutes for a driver.
Dryden taught third grade at Cleburne County Elementary School for 13 years before becoming assistant principal, then principal of Cleburne County High School, and then superintendent of the school system. However, she was a little nervous about drawing a band or chemistry teacher’s name, because she was not a great chemistry student and she’s never studied music, Dryden said.
“And here I am in band,” she said with a laugh today.
When the students came in, they treated Dryden as they would any substitute teacher. One immediately asked for permission to lead the warm-up – a job that had already been given to another student. When Dryden told her, the student said, she already knew that.
“He’s the favorite,” the student said, heading back to her seat.
Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.