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Achievement Schools start the year with more classroom teachers

August 14, 2019 - Employee Excellence

Achievement Schools, our district’s 50 highest needs schools, are starting the school year with fewer than 100 instructional vacancies—that’s half as many as last year. Principals say more classroom teachers mean more stability for our students, which gives them a leg-up for learning.

Fifteen Achievement Schools didn’t have any vacancies: Dover ES, Folsom ES, Foster ES, McDonald ES, Sheehy ES, Armwood HS, Bing ES, Greco MS, Jennings MS, BT Washington ES, Miles ES, Sullivan ES, Burney ES, Jackson ES and Reddick ES.

“We are super excited here at Sheehy. Our theme this year is “Strong Hearts, Fierce Minds,” said Sheehy Principal Delia Gadson-Yarbrough. “We’re fully staffed. We only have three new teachers at Sheehy. It makes all the difference. We were fully staffed last year as well, and I truly feel making sure the teachers are in place is a guarantee of student success.”

Last year, Sheehy’s school grade jumped from a D to a C.

Two sisters are among the new teachers at Sheehy and made the decision to come from a non-Achievement School.

“I heard such great things. A couple of us came over from Lamb and the first thing that I heard was that the leadership was so amazing,” said Sara Fielder, Sheehy Kindergarten Teacher.

Fielder’s sister, Emili Colon, said the new Spark incentive, which offers teachers at our Achievement Schools up to $13,000 in extra pay on top of their salaries, as well as free or discounted child care, only helped to make her decision to transfer to Sheehy even easier.

For more information on the Spark incentive:

“Initially, the county had rolled out the Spark initiative and it was something that really spoke to me, heading into my tenth year of teaching,” said Emili Colon, Sheehy 5th Grade Teacher. “I know that I still have a lot to give, but I also have a lot of experience to bring. So, I was very excited to get to work with the program and really help to make a difference in our higher needs schools. I’m just very excited to be here and am looking forward to a great year.”

McDonald Elementary also started the school year without a single classroom vacancy—a sharp contrast to the challenges Principal Melanie Cochrane faced last year.

“Last year, I had 13 vacancies to start the year out with. That’s a really tough way to start the classrooms with substitutes and using coaches,” said Principal Cochrane. “We did our very best to use district coaches and school coaches. I was very grateful for that, but it’s still not the same as having classroom teachers. So, to start the year out with that amount of vacancies in elementary school—to a fully staffed faculty is just a game changer.”

New McDonald Teachers Carrie Kovalovich and Lowell Patterson both worked with Principal Cochrane at A-rated Bevis Elementary. Both teachers’ children are now older and they felt called to make this change to help students.

“It just seemed like the right fit, and then when the Spark money came out, it was also another bonus to it,” said Carrie Kovalovich, McDonald Kindergarten Teacher.

“The Spark initiative was huge. That incentive makes a difference for teachers to be able to come to a school like this. A lot of my teachers are coming from far from here, so they’re driving every day. They’re spending a good hour, hour-and-a-half in the car, so it’s wear-and-tear, it’s your time, it’s gas money, so the extra money does help compensate for those,” said Cochrane.

“Talking with Melanie about it, seeing the things she did here and what the staff here did last year with the growth—not only because they were short staffed, and coaches were filling in for other positions and they still made 35 point gains—to hop on their coattails and be a part of the excitement… I get chills thinking about it,” said Lowell Patterson, McDonald Elementary Varying Exceptionalities Teacher.

Principal Cochrane said last year, McDonald’s school grade was just 3.5 points from a C. This year—now with a full staff—they’re determined to build on their progress and have their sights set on jumping to a B grade.

“I hope to spark that love of learning at a young age and have them want to come to school, and create the culture to where they feel safe, they feel loved and they want to learn,” said Kovalovich.

Our district’s Achievement Schools team is committed to providing unprecedented resources and support to our highest needs schools, principals and teachers to help level the playing field for all students.

“We’re ready, and we just can’t wait to see what our kids can do this year,” said Gadson-Yarbrough.

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