By VICTORIA VILLANUEVA-MARQUEZ
NORTH PORT – A Title I school in North Port climbed from a C to an A grade this year, a feat the principal credits to an increase in services at the school.
“I am beyond proud of our staff and students,” said Glenallen Elementary School Principal Rebecca Drum. “That ‘A’ validates the hard work they have done, but it doesn’t define us as a school.”
Drum noted a majority of the school’s staff has remained the same. Regardless of the school’s state-designated grade, she said employees were always focused on improving student performance.
Glenallen Elementary, like other Title I schools, serves high numbers of low-income students. Because of this, the schools receive additional funding to improve academic achievement.
Several new services have been introduced at Glenallen Elementary, which has helped the school rise two grade levels.
The school has hired supplemental staff to provide additional support to the lowest-performing students. The new staff members offer small group instruction that focuses on math and reading.
The elementary school has also started to offer an after-school tutoring program that centers on the same topics. The program allows students in third through fifth grades to have more time to meet with their teachers, who work to prepare them for state-mandated assessments.
Sarasota County Schools Superintendent Todd Bowden previously noted that low-income students face a different set of challenges than higher-income students.
“It is somewhat unfair in the field of education to simply compare two schools and assume that their environment is the same,” Bowden said. “We can put the same resources behind one school, and put the same resources behind a different school, but we have to recognize that they serve different communities.”
Drum agreed, noting that low-income students tend to be less prepared for school.
Some don’t know basic letters and sounds. Others can’t count to 10. Some have never been in a school setting before, and staff members must then teach them how to follow a routine or how to walk in lines.
Drum emphasized the fact that some students arrive at school with empty stomachs. She added that the school offers a free breakfast program to provide food for students before the school day begins.
Bowden and Drum both hope to see the school maintain its A grade next year, noting that the services offered at the school should continue to lead to student success.
The school opened its doors Monday morning, celebrating its improved school grade. And the celebration will continue, as the school also reaches its 35th anniversary this year.