West on its way to being a model

Teachers are using the summer to create a program they hope will close gaps in achievement.
Tuesday, July 6, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:54 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 3, 2008

As students enjoy their summer vacation, Vickie Robb, the new West Boulevard Elementary School principal, and members of her recently selected staff are working through their break to put plans into effect for the “model school” project.

The school at 319 West Blvd. serves students in first through fifth grades who are living in the school’s attendance area. Several construction projects are currently under way at the 54-year-old building.

Empty desks, trash cans and construction materials fill the hallways instead of students. Outside the building, large pieces of concrete flooring lie in the grass in front of the main entrance. Dust fills the air as many construction workers prepare to lay concrete at the north side of the school.

Superintendent Phyllis Chase said that by the time the school reopens this fall, foundation repairs should be completed, new equipment will be installed at the playground and Internet connections will be added to all classrooms.

In August, West Boulevard will reopen with new goals tailored for the school and its students. Robb and her staff are preparing throughout the summer and — with 10 more days in their contracts than other teachers in the district — will head back to the classrooms earlier in August. Robb said the staff will use those days to look at specific data relating to the school and form their goals for the upcoming year.

Creating a model school sprang from the recommendations of the Achievement Gap Task Force, a committee Chase created. The group produced recommendations for the district on how to reduce the achievement gap in Columbia schools.

Chase said the West Boulevard staff will work with Sally Lyon, new director of research assessment and accountability, to gather data on the current status of the students at West Boulevard while Monica Naylor, the district’s multicultural coordinator, will help with ways to reduce the achievement gap among students based on ethnicity and economic backgrounds.

Fourth-grade teacher Beckey Elder said she normally teaches summer school but decided not to this summer to give her more time to prepare for the fall. Besides planning her classroom, Elder has also been attending staff development courses and moving her classroom things over from Lee Elementary School.

She said this summer wasn’t much different from others because she is always thinking about her students and making plans for the fall. This summer, however, Elder said the focus and anticipation for this fall is different.

Elder said she is excited to have the opportunity to teach at the model school and work with Robb and the rest of the faculty. Along with the excitement, Elder said there is pressure to be successful. “I guess we would be looking at short-term and long-term goals, and we’ll want to see results in both areas,” she said.

Since the staff has longer work days, they plan to designate at least one hour a week for making parent contacts, Robb said.

Robb said parents will sign an agreement with the school to ensure parent involvement.

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