Friday, December 16, 2016

A Magical Year

A police car pulls up in front of an elementary school. The crackle of the dispatch can be heard as two officers step out of their vehicle and head toward the main campus office. What brings these officers to campus today may be a surprise to some. They are here to participate in a campus literacy event, a read-a-thon.

This annual campus-sponsored activity is just one of many examples of how schools are reaching beyond their traditional walls to build connections to parents, the community, careers and the future, and why this particular elementary has much to celebrate this holiday season.

Welcome to Sherwood Elementary School. Sherwood is located on the north side of Interstate 10, in the expanding Energy Corridor, and is one of many schools living in the midst of transformation. Driving to campus you’ll see a diverse mix of industrial businesses and new, designer urban housing. This juxtaposition and diversity exist not only in the surrounding areas but in the student population as well.

This diversity is one of the reasons families and parents are coming back to this long-established neighborhood school. Just ask campus Principal, Stefanie Spencer.

“Sherwood is a melting pot...of economics…or culture. Our students, parents and staff quickly become part of the Sherwood Family- a family inclusive of everyone. We’re always sensitive to the diversity…of economics…of culture…of religion and race at our school. My community is always working on making sure that everyone feels valued, safe and supported.”

One example of this growing and strengthening community is a marked increase in Parent Teacher Association (PTA) support. Combining this PTA growth with steadily rising volunteer numbers, and a targeted focus on serving #everychild, you get what Principal Stefanie Spencer calls her ‘magical’ and favorite school year.

“Over the years, our PTA Board has evolved from a very small group of determined individuals being mentored by our beloved secretary, Carroll Harkins, who had been part of PTAs as a parent herself, to one with a full Board with committees serving the school and families of SWE.

We have representatives for our whole school. It is transforming and enhancing the education at Sherwood in observable ways. My PTA is always thinking of what they can do to ensure every student is served. I am just so proud. It’s a huge victory for our kids,” said Spencer.

The campus and SBISD Board of Trustee President Karen Peck agree. They recognized Sherwood’s PTA for a generous donation of $18,827.00 earmarked for the purchase of library books, Chromebooks, Reading A-Z subscription, OSMO kits for kindergarten, and general school supplies all to help personalize the learning experience for Sherwood students.

The magic of this year is apparent during Sherwood’s Read-a-Thon.  The literacy event, in its eighth year, boasts a record 114 volunteer readers. With the community rallying around students, educators and the critical work of literacy, it’s hard not to believe there is something akin to fairy dust sprinkled on the books that guests read to enthralled students.

Students and teachers dressed in their favorite pajamas welcoming volunteers to class to celebrate the season and a love of reading provide a visual confirmation of the belief that success for students and their learning is rooted in the powerful intersection of community engagement, connected relationships, and quality instruction.

“The way to T-2-4 and their (student) dreams is through the act of reading. Boys and girls who love to read, read. We need to engage kids in that there are a lot of books to be read out there. There is a lot of fun around reading. Everybody reads. Everybody successful reads a lot,” said Spencer.

Even while wrapping up an exciting semester and closing out a record read-a-thon event, Principal Spencer still looks forward to the work ahead.

“Each of us has a role in showing up, participating, and getting excited about learning. Parents, teachers, kids or community members…all of us. It’s only going to get better.”


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