Our future is in our children’s hands and those who teach them
The state of Bermuda schools
By Carrie Coyner, Bermuda District School Board Member
Do you ever drive through our Bermuda District community just to see your neighbors? Not the neighbors who live three blocks over, but the vast array of neighbors who make up this amazing melting pot called Chester. You should if you don’t, and pay particular attention to our schools while you do. When I drive by our schools, I wonder if we have provided everything students need to be the next county administrator, the doctor who will care for me when I’m elderly, or the mechanic who will fix my car. And then I wonder if we grown-ups are working hard enough for and are focused on the right things for the future of our community; our children.
I know a group of adults who are working hard enough and focusing on doing right by our kids; our teachers. Four schools in our community – Bellwood, Bensley, Harrowgate and Elizabeth Scott elementary schools – are U.S. Department of Education National Title I Distinguished Schools. This award is given to schools that accomplish sustained academic progress, and it is a reflection of the amazing teachers and principals we have in our community. This is the second time Bensley has been honored, a rare feat nationally.
I’m also extremely proud of the partnership being forged between Enon and Marguerite Christian elementary schools. This summer, we will begin to build a replacement Enon Elementary on its current site. As work is completed, Enon students will attend school on Marguerite Christian’s campus next year. The two schools already are collaborating to make the 2017-18 school year an exciting time for students and staff members. Some worried about how our community would react to combining schools, but I knew our community would respond positively. A Marguerite Christian parent summed it up perfectly: “We take care of each other here. Enon needs a home for a year, and we are here to help.” I treasure our community because we do a pretty good job of helping one another when we see a need.
Ecoff Elementary recently hosted elected leaders from the local and state levels, showcasing the school’s Social Emotional Learning program that promotes caring for one another, open-mindedness, and embracing diversity. I dare you to visit Ecoff and not leave with a smile on your face and a happy tear shed over the authentic relationships growing in each and every classroom.
Our schools have great teachers. The 2016 Region I Outstanding Teacher of the Gifted, Rhonda Bailey-Clark, teaches fifth grade at Curtis Elementary. Ms. Bailey-Clark’s recognition proves that students who excel don’t have to attend a center-based gifted program to receive outstanding instruction.
Wells Elementary continues to be a leader in family engagement. From hosting Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) to Family Literacy Night to an engaged PTA, Wells is a leader in bringing parents into schools to support students academically and socially.
As the host of the county’s performing arts specialty center, there are plenty of cultural opportunities for the community at Thomas Dale High. The specialty center serves students interested in music, theater, dance and the visual arts. In December and January alone, the school hosted a chorus and orchestra winter concert, a band concert, a jazz band and dance concert, and a student-directed One Act Festival. The public was invited to all of these events. Other events throughout the year are open to the public, too. The performances over the years of Annie, Shrek, and The Wiz were all New York stage-worthy productions. But the true test of success is the impact the high school actors have on younger students through their Halloween community breakfast activities and their commitment to positive role modeling for younger peers; my own six-year-old daughter tells “I want to be like her when I grow up” as she watches the actresses and dancers at Thomas Dale every time we see a show there.
Students attending Carver College and Career Academy receive a personalized education plan that emphasizes academic rigor, character development, career and technical education, and workplace readiness skills. The work is preparing these students for careers the moment they graduate from high school. Carver was highlighted on public radio for its innovative class combining math, carpentry, and manufacturing. Principal Ken Butta was a winner of the 2016 REB Award for Distinguished Educational Leadership because he goes beyond the day-to-day demands to create an exceptional education environment. Go Wolverines!
We all know there are friendly rivalries in our community; heck, everyone picks a side on Bird-Dale football night. But Carver and Elizabeth Davis middle schools have forged a new rivalry that I hope becomes the mantra for our entire community. Not separated by too many miles, these two schools have forged a friendly rivalry under the auspices of #ChesterUnited. It’s an effort to see the education we are providing to our middle school students as a united front – not one school being better than the other, but both being most successful when teachers help each other with lesson plans, principals support each other, and schools view their joint success as the only way to move ahead.
My hope is that our entire community embraces the idea of ChesterUnited, and we drive around looking out for one another, knowing that the success of our neighbors is equally as important and vital to my success, your success, and the success of our community. So, you can hashtag #ChesterUnited, but I hope we all live ChesterUnited as we head into 2017 and beyond! We have great things going on right now in our Bermuda District schools. And with community support, our schools will only continue to get better!