Eastside Elementary: Excellence in the Making
As I mentioned two months ago, we have a lot of wonderful things happening in our district. We started with a “deep dive” into MS Bailey in April and Clinton Elementary in May. This month, we continue our focus with an equally good school: Eastside Elementary (EES).
Eastside Elementary was built in the mid-1980’s and became home to the now shuttered Florida Street Elementary. Eastside has had very strong leadership over the years — Betty Strock, Henry Simmons and Melodie Edwards, just to name a few key instructional leaders. Ms. Carol Anne Barnes, principal since 2013, has carried on the tradition of excellence over the last several years. Although Ms. Barnes will transition to MS Bailey next year, her influence has left a palpable and positive impact on the school.
Since there are now high stakes consequences (i.e., possible mandatory retention) should students not be reading on grade level by the end of third grade, Ms. Barnes and her staff have had a very defined target: Improving Literacy. Over the 2017 – 2018 school year, Ms. Barnes and her staff incorporated students, teachers, and the community in working to improve reading and writing as well as increasing numeracy (math skills).
EES implemented a comprehensive, community-assisted plan to help all students increase their reading proficiency. Examples include:
-- Students from Clinton High School’s Agriculture Education classes visited monthly to connect literacy, agriculture and nutrition. CHS students read books connecting farming to nutrition and brought animals with them;
-- Presbyterian College (PC) athletes visited regularly throughout the year to read to and with students. A particular “shout out” goes to the Women's Basketball and Men's Golf teams;
-- During International Literacy Day, PC athletes brought over t-shirts for students to show the connection between literacy at the elementary schools and even the collegiate level. This program was called "One Shirt, One Body." EES students enjoyed seeing the PC students and engaging in a sincere mentoring program with older students;
-- Author/Illustrator Floyd Cooper came to EES and talked about the inspirations which lead him to write and illustrate children’s books;
-- The EES Daily Morning News Show showcased book talks where teachers and students could share books they enjoyed on the news and give a brief synopsis and recommendation;
-- Teachers dedicated significant time in classrooms for authentic reading opportunities- partner reading, independent reading, book clubs, and dedicated time to “read aloud” opportunities.
Not only did EES look at direct literacy connections but also, they strengthened community involvement across all grade levels:
-- EES had an Annual Career Day showcasing the numerous types of jobs in and around our community;
-- Davidson Street Baptist Church was a very important “faith based” partner providing volunteers for school activities and running the afternoon Good News Club;
-- First Presbyterian Church provided “Snack Packs” for identified students and “Hands of Christ” provided clothes and school supplies to students last summer;
-- The Daraja Choir, a Ugandan youth choir, came and visited for a day in classrooms and performing for students
Our district’s Healthy Snacks grant provided an opportunity for students to learn about various fruits and vegetables, as well as enjoy them two/three times a week throughout the year.
Although Ms. Barnes will assume her new role next year, she has left the school ready for Ms. Tanya Wilson, the new principal for 2018-2019. Ms. Wilson has experience in all three levels — elementary, middle, and high —but readily admits her heart and her beginning were in elementary. She is excited to build on the activities and programs of Ms. Barnes and looks to add a few additional programs, namely PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) to support intervention efforts with struggling students; AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) to support study skills, responsibility, and personal organization in both 4th and 5th grades; and Traction training (a comprehensive instructional professional development model).
Another addition for the 2018 – 2019 school year will be extended school day services at MS Bailey and all the elementary schools. There will be much more to come over the summer with this exciting new “after school” learning opportunity.
Great things are happening in each of our schools. Don’t let the “negative Nellies” tell you otherwise. Our schools are providing more and more choices for parents and students. And nowhere is this more evident than at Eastside.
Eastside Elementary School’s mascot is the Eagle, a most appropriate mascot for a school soaring to new heights and excellence one student at a time.
(Dr. David O’Shields is District 56 Superintendent.)