MANATEE COUNTY -- Tuesday marked the first day back to work for more than 4,000 teachers in the Manatee County School District. And come Monday, 48,000 students will join them for the 2015-16 academic year.
Teachers, principals and support staff reported back for training sessions in the morning and afternoon. Teachers will spend the next few days in more training.
At Blackburn Elementary School, teachers spent Tuesday afternoon training on The Positive Behavior Support system, which encourages students to act appropriately and gives them little toys and other rewards for doing so.
"It's a way for our students to know the expectations," said Jennifer Gonzalez, a third-grade Blackburn teacher who helped lead training Tuesday.
Last year, the teachers handed out paper "tickets" to the students when they did well. This year, they're moving to an online system that will help teachers keep track better.
"We've revamped our system," said Krista Francies, the student support specialist at Blackburn.
Some schools, including Braden River High School, held a welcome-back breakfast for teachers. Bayshore High School and Lee Middle School joined forces to provide training. Community partners stepped in to help, including Bayside Community Church providing breakfast for the staff at Prine Elementary School.
District-level officials, including Superintendent Diana Greene, are stressing calmness and stability for the 2015-16 school year, and officials are trying to implement fewer changes this year.
That makes a difference, Blackburn Principal Marla Massi-Blackmore said. Under the school's improvement plan, her teachers started back last week and were able to set up their classrooms and start training a little early. Fewer changes created a smoother transition.
"You could definitely tell," Massi-Blackmore said.
Fifth-grade teacher Lisa March, who also helped lead Blackburn's training Tuesday, said she felt more prepared this year than she had in years past, and credited the school's administration.
"We're more prepared this year than we ever have been," she said.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.