Potter Elementary welcomed a few extra “students” one recent morning as about 50 community members visited to learn more about the teaching and learning taking place each day at the East Tampa school.
Visitors enjoyed breakfast and some beats from the school’s talented drum line before Principal Melanie Hill-Anderson explained some of the tireless efforts at work to help the young Eagles soar as both students and citizens.
Student performance is climbing. Disciplinary incidents are falling. Students are responding to positive behavior incentives and following procedures know as CHAMPS. There’s major push toward “mindfulness,” the idea of stopping to think before taking regrettable actions.
The goal was “so the community is able to see all the great work,” said Principal Melanie Hill-Anderson. “And,” she added, “that we need them to be part of it as well.”
Former School Board member and educator Doretha Edgecomb echoed the importance of a committed community: “That’s what’s going to make a difference.”
Other guests included multiple pastors and active members of local churches; team members from Suncoast Credit Union, the City of Tampa and the Hillsborough County Health Department; and a cadre of residents from the nearby Rainbow Heights neighborhood, including Frankie Jones.
She briefly attended Potter as a child. Her children attended the school as well. Back on campus, Jones liked what she saw.
“I really like data,” she said of Hill-Anderson’s presentation. “It lets you know there is some change.”
She also noticed it during classroom visits. Students were engaged and responsive. Walls were filled with words, a text-rich environment that might seem overwhelming to a visitor but is just what students need to succeed," Jones said.
During tours, visitors noted the word “Leader” on the back of each student’s shirts. That’s part of the school’s “Leader in Me” program, which asks students to consider the question, “Is that what a leader would do?”
In preparation for state testing, Potter will begin Saturday academies on Feb. 3, and the school is seeing community partners to help provide incentives for children to attend, including breakfast and lunch along with a $2 a week bump into each attendees’ snack account at school.
“You may not think $2 is a lot,” district outreach supervisor Mary Mathis said, “but it’s a lot for many of them.”
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