It’s a fresh start at Northeast Middle School that is setting the tone for the school year.
With new Principal Alicia McCree and Assistant Principal Jennifer Clark on board and a brand new parent-teacher group, teachers, parents and the administration alike are ready to get the school back on track – and it looks like they’re on their way.
When McCree came to the school at the beginning of July for reassignment after working at Kennedy Middle School, her first goal was to meet one-on-one with teachers and parents to just listen. Since the school didn’t reach end-of-grade assessment goals last year, McCree knew there was room for improvement and listening was the place to start. Last year, Northeast’s performance composite score from EOG testing, or the percentage of test scores in the school at or above grade level, dropped. The school showed 76.4 percent of students performing at or above grade level in 2010-11, and 72.7 percent in 2011-12.
And after hearing teacher concerns, it was clear that the number one issue at Northeast was lack of organization and structure — something she was excited to help change and improve.
“I met with teachers over the summer one-on-one,” she said. “I wanted to talk to them about anything they felt I needed to know. A lot of things I was told were that the school lacked structure.”
And with a list of complaints of disciplinary problems from last school year, McCree said she had to start the year off with better organization, raising expectations across all aspects of the school community — starting with the school’s parent-teacher group, who McCree found was virtually nonexistent.
“The first thing I did was try to meet with key people in the school … there was a full (PTA) board last year, but it was three or four people who basically did whatever needed to be done,” McCree said. “There really wasn’t strong participation among the others.”
So McCree and Clark decided to take action, Clark volunteering to be the liaison between the group and the school. They scheduled a meeting with parents before school started and were able to find some parents who were interested in helping. Now the group has at least seven or eight parents filling the board and some sub-committees and has since held two to three meetings.
Having high parent involvement is essential in student success, McCree said.
“I think if the parents are more involved and they know what’s going on, they can better support their kids at home,” she said. “Kids will feel good about the fact that their parents are part of the school and will strive to have high academic success and good behavior if they know their parents are involved.”
“When the parents know the school cares about their kids, they want to be more apart of it, which is what we want,” she said.
McCree also put in place a more organized system, where disciplinary actions are consistent and kids are spending more time in the classroom and less time traveling back and fourth to the restroom.
“I had to limit movement out of the classroom,” McCree said. “Additionally, the kids are not allowed to go to the restrooms during class changes because last year from what I understand, there was a lot of playing and behavior issues within the bathroom.”
Recently, the administration has been in the classrooms, deep in teacher observations, analyzing instruction, coaching teachers and providing professional development support.
“The school needed assessment in terms of what we’re teaching and how we’re teaching it,” she said. “It’s making sure everybody is on board and everybody is held accountable. No major, major changes—but it’s more consistency. I think my staff understands my expectations in terms of (the) structure of the school.”
And the students are starting to understand, too, McCree added.
“The kids are respectful and eager to learn, for the most part, and I think for whatever reason last year, they may have gotten off track,” McCree said. “I think they thought I was from the military at first. But, I think over time, they are beginning to appreciate having more structure.”
Both McCree and Clark said they still have a lot to learn about Northeast, but so far, they’ve noticed a strong willingness from teachers to ensure students are successful.
“I can say that one of the things that stands out about this school is that the staff is very, very cooperative and they will make changes to make their kids successful,” McCree said.
“They’re always striving for high student success,” Clark added.