SES earns highest scores; principals say success boils down to culture of achievement

Published 2:24 am Friday, January 4, 2019

Out of the 15 schools in the county, Straughn Elementary School is the only school that scored an A on its 2017-2018 Alabama State Report Card. SES principal Betty Older and assistant principal Barry Wood said that their improved score all comes down to the school’s culture of achievement.

“This is really just a confirmation of all of the hard work and high expectations set by the faculty and students,” Older said. “We have been working hard for years so it is great to get confirmation of our hard work.”

Wood said that the improved score does not surprise him.

“We see the hard work and effort that our students and faculty have every day,” Wood said. “So it isn’t really a surprise to us, but it is great to get confirmation of it.”

The school report card score is based on several different elements including academic achievement, academic growth, graduation rate, college and career readiness, progress in English language proficiency and chronic absenteeism.

SES’s score improved seven points from last year’s 84 to this year’s 91.

Wood said that there is a culture of achievement at SES that extends to the community.

“They faculty, staff and parents have this high standard of achievement,” Wood said. “I think there is just a culture of achievement, whether it be in attendance, in student performance or growth. I think that culture of achievement really extends through everyone. Our staff really puts in a lot of time after hours preparing and going through professional development for the betterment of our students.”

Older said that during Thursday’s in-service day, the teachers even went through professional development classes to improve their skills as teachers.

“Today we did robotics with our staff,” Older said. “We had AMSTI come in and set up four different stations of robots. Everybody rotated through the stations and we realized that what we were doing in there was problem solving. We were talking about how we could make this robot do what we wanted it to do, and then we stopped and thought that this is exactly what we do with kids. So we were doing all of these things and then we stopped and brought it down even further to how can we use this in the classroom.”

Older believes that giving their teachers flexibility has created a positive culture at SES.

“Whether it be flexible seating where instead of you sitting in a chair all day long or a desk, you are sitting on a bouncy ball because you can’t sit still,” Older said. “Or the way you want to teach the standards, I think that flexibility has created a very positive culture for us. It really is positive risk taking and it is working here.”

Wood said that everyone at SES is on the same page of making their students’ lives better.

“We do have students whose home lives are less than perfect,” Wood said. “But when they walk into these doors in the morning, they walk into a school that is ready to better every single part of that child’s life. You get that from the whole staff, whether it’s greeting Ann in the morning, or their bus driver, collectively we are all on the same page of making our children’s’ lives better.”

Older said that partnerships around the community are key to their success.

“Not only partnerships with PTO or AMSTI,” Older said. “But partnerships with the community in general, whether it be with the churches, or with the local realtors, that’s what makes us who we are. Those partnerships strengthen us.”

In the end, both principals agreed that it boils down to student success at Straughn Elementary School.

“It is kind of celebratory,” Older said. “We celebrate student success and if students succeed we all succeed. The county succeeds, the state succeeds, we all succeed and that is why student success is what it is all about.”