Talk about ending the year with a bang.

Talk about ending the year with a bang.

Thank you so much to everyone who helped to pass the levy. So many people gave generously of their time and talents to help us ensure our children's education is the best it can be. I had my fingers crossed until a recount of the May ballot was complete. It's difficult to express how happy and relieved I am that the final count was positive.

Now, there's the long chore of creating a new financial plan for the district. Please be rest assured that even though the levy passed, we will maintain the same level of frugal planning as always. Still uncertain, however, are the results of the third- through eighth-grade achievements tests. We'll know how to direct next year's instruction after we receive them.

As our kids enjoy some well-deserved time off, our teachers and staff are busy during summer. Our teachers continue to work in their teams to prepare for next year, and they participate in professional development. The planning process never ends.

I encourage parents not to forget about education entirely over the summer. I suggest they spend some time with their children reviewing what's expected of them next year, and I hope parents will encourage children to read at least one book during summer (two books would be twice as good).

Three months is a long time, but there is plenty for kids to do as we prepare for the 2009-10 school year.

Volunteerism is incredibly important to our society and something that should be instilled in all children from a very young age. There are so many organizations that could use some bright young minds and hands during summer.

Even if it's difficult to transport children to organized volunteer events, they can still help a neighbor with a chore right next door. Volunteerism begins close to home.

Seize a moment and make it a learning opportunity for kids. It doesn't have to be structured. Discuss plants and wildlife on a stroll through the woods, or take an impromptu trip to a museum.

That being said, children also need lots of reasonably unsupervised time to themselves during break. Whatever happened to playing? Sometimes I think it's too easy to involve our children in so many activities that they never have an opportunity to stop, relax, and be kids. I realize too much free time can lead to problems, but there's a definite balance. I believe summer vacation should be a learning tool that's overall not as structured as the school year. It's simply a chance to do something different.

I hope parents remain active with the district this summer. Please visit our Web site from time to time and read newspapers to stay in touch. I know August seems far away, but it'll be here quickly enough. Being informed helps the kids to know more of what to expect on their first day back to school.

I'm sad to say some of our staff won't return next year. We bid fond farewells to Mrs. Connie Williams, primary teacher; Mr. Ron Daugherty, school nurse; and Ms. Carolyn Blair, middle school custodian. All of you are appreciated and will be missed.

As the year winds down and we prepare for awards banquets and recognitions, there's a lot happening with our kids. We had a group of eighth-graders traveling to Washington, D.C., a group of seventh-graders headed to Cincinnati, a sixth-grade group went to Cleveland and our seniors will spend a day at Cedar Point.

Overall, I think this year was a good one considering all the craziness. The levy's passage is icing on the cake and again I'll thank everyone who worked so hard for its success. We worked many of the bugs out of all the new procedures related to consolidating the campus this year so, who knows? Maybe next year we can look forward to returning to a level of normalcy. We'll see. Have a great summer.

John T. Shepard is superintendent of the Northridge Local Schools.

John T.