With the scheduled opening day for Marshall County schools a couple of days away, it makes for an exciting time for new superintendent Dr. Steve Miracle.

Miracle, himself, has been in his official role just more than a month and said moving into the role has gone “extremely well.”

“The community has been extremely welcoming and continues to be,” he said in an interview with the Tribune-Courier last week. “It goes back to what was initially the first time I drove into the community. It’s certainly a community you can feel and see the welcoming kind of attitude.

“From the standpoint of getting into the district and getting settled here, that has been good as well,” Miracle added. “We’ve now been able to spend a lot of time with district and school leadership in different trainings and meetings. We’ve been able to begin that process of where I want to move with the district as far as beginning to talk about the things we need to bring into focus, identify things that are going well and things that need to be evaluated.”

Miracle said school officials have started the process of forging a strategic plan for the district. He said they hope to have a draft by December and then gather community stakeholders in to help finalize it.

As an overall look at the district heading into the 2021-22 school year, Miracle noted they are examining the potential use for $7 million in ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funds over the next three years. The district was to complete a narrative plan that was due to the state this past weekend. Now, they will work to produce a budgetary component by the end of August.

Miracle said they hope to use funding to help the overall Marshall County community, including covering some of the beginning-of-the-year fees that parents must pay and other avenues to ease some financial burdens. The district was able to use the funds for $20 school fees and $25 technology fees for the 2021-22 school year, but not school supplies.

“We weren’t able to do that this year because of the timing,” he said. “The next two years, we can use those ESSER funds to alleviate parents having to buy those supplies.”

He stressed it wouldn’t be a permanent program and after three years, they would revert back to parents purchasing needed school supplies for their children.

Another offering they are looking at is providing after school care, “again helping those financially who might qualify,” Miracle said.

He added that 20% would be earmarked toward loss of learning following the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. Officials are also examining the best ways to address those issues.

Addressing construction in the district, Miracle commended the work to keep their buildings in sound shape over the years. “Some buildings have some age on them that need some work, but I think there are currently 32 open projects right now.”

The biggest renovation project is the Area Technology Center. He said it should be ready when school opens this week, but admitted they have experienced shipping delays with some materials.

“The great thing about the ATC is a grant we’re applying for to do some more renovations there through the state,” Miracle noted. He said the total grant pool is approximately $75 million offered to districts that have a locally-owned ATC like Marshall County has.

That grant application is due Aug. 13 with a quick turnaround announcement on recipients around the first of September.

“We can do a lot of expansion if we get the grant,” he said. The ATC currently offers welding, electrical, carpentry, nursing, agricultural technology, technology and automotive. Though not set in stone and dependent upon student interest, but he said they would like to develop a HVAC program.

Miracle said he also hopes to see the state redefine assessments and measuring of success for students and schools and become more consistent in its goals and metrics.

With plans and goals, Miracle expressed his enthusiasm about starting this new path with Marshall County.

“Every day is exciting,” he said. “I learn something new about the community everyday and the district everyday.”