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Emerson Elementary Becomes Kansas All-Star
It was a local FOX4 good news story. And Emerson Elementary’s results graced industry blogs and magazines nationwide. This is a story of an Evans Newton transformation that took a struggling school from “worst to first” in the state. Emerson Elementary was ranked at the very bottom of the list. Not just at the bottom of the district list, but at the bottom of the list in the state of Kansas. When Evans Newton began working with them in 2009, they found a school in dire need of transformation and a principal who was committed to make it happen—no matter what. Thankfully, Emerson Elementary received funding through the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program, with the promise to implement a proven turn around model. School and district leaders looked at several companies that said they could turn Emerson into a district leader. But through an extensive evaluation process the school and district leaders came to believe Evans Newton could actually make it happen. “It gave us a chance to rejuvenate the school, bring in a new chemistry with teachers, the staff and the principal…get a fresh start.” –Principal Brett Bernard Gaining input and buy-in from all the stakeholders is critical to any school turn around, so involving all the teachers and developing professional learning communities (PLCs) was part of the plan. Evans Newton’s onsite team understands and is experienced in this critical step. Building relationships with and between the teachers and staff is a real key to success. “This isn’t about just giving the schools more stuff, showing them how to use it and wishing them luck. This job takes listening, it takes coaching and it takes caring. We all care about the teachers and staff as much as we care about the students. We could not be as successful as we are if we believed any other way,” said Bernice Stafford, VP of Implementation and Education Partnership for Evans Newton. The Evans Newton team consists of mostly former educators who can empathize with the other educators they work with in the schools. The teachers of Emerson Elementary felt a wide range of emotions when they learned the truth about their school. Anger, embarrassment, fear and everything in between could not be simply ignored. By believing in the teachers and staff, their abilities and their willingness to grow professionally, the Evans Newton onsite team helped teachers overcome all those negative emotions and ultimately realize more positive ones like pride in achievement and joy in success. “It was scary to hear your school is going to change and your staff is going to change. But we embraced it and went forward, and it’s just been great.” –Teacher Lynn Salisbury What was once a struggling elementary school is now the all-star in the state of Kansas. They have the lowest teacher turnover—no teachers have left in three years—and they are the number one achieving Title I school in the state. Students stay late, work with tutors and parents are engaged. They have set the bar for leadership and achievement. “For every Emerson Elementary out there you can find a dozen or more other schools in need that can become just like them.” -Ricardo Valencia, President of Evans Newton.