Greetings Bethune Family!
While at times it may have felt we were literally pushing water up hill, reflection on the first quarter of this school year reveals that Bethune Eagles have much to talk about. Together, we pushed through transportation woes, staffing dynamics, scheduling concerns, and communication barriers. Yet, no matter how great or small our challenges, we have all persevered and are now embarking upon Q’2. Your patience has been nothing short of remarkable. Thank you!
Anyone who has ever literally attempted to push water up a hill can certainly testify that water is bound to spill over a bucket’s edge the more you push and the higher you climb. I am okay with that as long as you gain some wins along the way. So despite many challenges, we can truly celebrate the ground we nourished and flowers that bloomed during our travels. Since our doors opened as a united community on August 6th, we have realized some pretty sizable wins. For example, we launched our school newsletter, The Best of Bethune, which highlights monthly events taking place and features students and teachers on the move at Bethune. We also kicked off our ongoing sustainability projects through our Harvest the Rain campaign. We were very fortunate to have several community leaders help to extend our students’ learning beyond the classroom by stamping and signing our unity barrel and reiterating how students will significantly impact the community through rainwater collection. Further, we have been and will continue to recognize and support our teachers as Teacher Leaders. In fact, Mrs. Traci Walker-Jackson, our PEC Interrelated teacher was selected as our 2012 – 2013 Teacher of the Year. Ms. Stuart on our Kindergarten team is our district’s Campus Based Mentor for teachers new to Bethune Elementary. Mrs. Whitehurst and Mrs. Womack from our 5th grade team have been recognized as leaders in the areas of technology and mathematics, respectively. And, our first S.E.E. Award, Soaring to Excellence in Education, was awarded to Mrs. Savita Guthrie for her dedication and commitment to excellence.
We have worked to solidify existing partnerships and acquire new relationships that are meaningful and relevant to all stakeholders. Our partners at the Georgia World Congress Center donated uniforms and backpacks to students in need. They also provided our teachers a window into their world through an extensive field trip on Dome operations and logistics. Teachers were not only given an opportunity to interact with one another in a friendly environment, but were also able to identify new ways to deliver curriculum content to our students. The Coca-Cola Company invited two of our students to meet Olympic Gold Winner Alex Morgan and introduce her to the Coca-Cola Company staff. In addition they graciously donated new soccer equipment which now resides on our field right next to our playground.
New partners, The City of Atlanta Department of Corrections and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., have begun providing support through mentoring, donations, and literacy. While their areas of focus are far reaching, they have placed specific emphasis on touching and giving back to our males. The change we have already seen in many of our young men definitely pulls at my heart strings. The Atlanta Speech School and Georgia State University have donated time and research to ensure teachers are equipped with best practices and strategies in teaching literacy skills to students.
This month, new partner Saving Our Daughters will focus on assisting 5th grade females with their impending transition to middle school. Along their journey, they will address bullying, etiquette, and self-esteem. I am excited because this will provide wraparound support to our young ladies and bolster their self-confidence socially and academically.
While we have seen many flowers bloom, it is safe to say that we still have uncovered ground and therefore must continue the climb. Our focus on the initiatives we have started will not waver. However, we will continue to also focus on achievement across all content areas. In support of this, teachers plan collaboratively Monday through Thursday for 45 minutes per day. Their planning time each Tuesday is dedicated to professional development on Common Core Standards and best practices. They are facilitated by our highly qualified Instructional Coaches from Bethune and the Atlanta Speech School. Our students are exposed to test taking strategies and new curriculum daily through CRCT Warm Ups that introduce each new lesson.
Though our partners have been instrumental in helping us to combat bullying, we realize that the change must come from within. To that end, we have taken a hard stance against bullying. During our Partner for a Day visit with Ms. Renay Blumenthal from the Metro Atlanta Chamber, several students shared their concerns and suggestions in a focus group. From this session we learned that bullies often become bullies after they themselves have been victims of bullying. We heard our students and felt it necessary to reiterate the message spoken in our August 10th assembly…Bethune is a NO bully zone. To ensure the message was clear, we kicked off an anti-bullying campaign November 1, 2012. Each day, the last 10 minutes of class are dedicated to ‘advisory’ where students can speak about bullying and how they have been impacted with their teachers. This week students will work with teachers Ms. Goodwin, Mr. McClenton, and Ms. Malone to record an anti-bullying public service announcement. In addition, they will write and post personal anti-bullying pledges and statements throughout the school.
Yes, Bethune Family there is still ground to cover and as I reflect, I am grateful for the patience you have demonstrated and even more grateful that some water still remains in our buckets. As we push I am reminded of one of my favorite novels by Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time. When questioned about the title and storyline, the author shared that the novel was written during a time of transition. I will not give away the story, but know that though the characters traveled over many lands and through many challenges, they persevered. Thank you once again for taking the journey with us. Our buckets are half-full, but our hearts are bursting with pride at the strides we have made. Together, we will continue the climb!