Two elementary schools in Ormond Beach are celebrating raising their school grades from “B’s” to “A’s.”
The Florida Department of Education released the 2017 school grades and two Ormond Beach elementary schools raised their grades to A.
The Volusia County School district maintained its B district grade and 56% of the schools rated A or B which is a 16%
increase from 2016. Volusia also increased the number of A-rated schools by 36% and reduced the number of D-rated schools. For the second straight year, no schools received an F rating.
Two schools increased two letter grades. Turie T. Small Elementary in Daytona Beach went from a D to a B, and Coronado Beach Elementary in New Smyrna Beach went from a C to an A.
The principals of Ormond Beach Elementary and Tomoka Elementary were happy to start their summer off on such a high note.
Ormond Beach Elementary
Principal Tucker Harris grew up in Ormond Beach and graduated from Seabreeze High School. He ended his first year as Principal at Ormond Beach Elementary with an A-rated school. This is only phase one according to Harris.
“Last year we were a B school, two points away from a C,” Harris said. “We improved about 108 points.
To pump the students up for the tests, Harris had the Seabreeze High School drumline march through the halls of the school, during classes, the week before.
“It was really loud,” he said. “We were doing ‘old school pep rally.’”
This year, the school of 340 students celebrated its 100th birthday with a big weekend celebration that was well attended by students and their families. Family participation is important to Harris. If a student is having problems or can’t get to school on time, he wants to know what he can do to help.
Harris credits community involvement with groups that include the Ormond Beach Police Department, the Ormond Memorial Art Museum and Gardens and school volunteers with the school’s success. Tables are pushed together on Don Peppers for family-style dinners during the year.
Attendance is critical for student success and when the Volusia County Superintendent Challenge was issued, Harris only had to look over the Granada Bridge to find his “competition.” He and former Seabreeze classmate, Osceola Elementary Principal Kevin Flassig started their own attendance challenge. Three times the principals, accompanied by teachers and local officials, met at the top of the bridge to compare attendance records and exchange a trophy to take back to their school. Osceola has the trophy for the summer but Harris wants it back.
Keeping with the county Champs program, a positive and proactive approach to classroom management, Harris and his team are implementing school-wide behavior plans, created from input from the different grade levels to provide one consistent plan for the school.
His enthusiasm reflects his background as a former coach. He motivates his students as he would a player, striving to meet the needs of the learner.
“Get good at something; get good at it and become awesome; and then move onto something else,” Harris said. “Perfect practice makes perfect,” he said. “If you practice but you’re doing it wrong it won’t be perfect.”
“The energy this past year has really made a difference,” said fourth-grade teacher Leslye Grossmann who had stopped in to congratulate Harris on the A rating.
Principal Susan Tuten is the second of three generations of Volusia county students in her family. A graduate of Spruce Creek High School, Tuten’s parents and children attended school here.
She has been principal for the 785 students at Tomoka Elementary, pre-k through fifth, for the past three years and is enjoying the school’s improvement from a B to an A school this year. In November the school will celebrate its 50th birthday.
She credits contributions from the school “stakeholders” that includes the Futures Foundation, the PTA, Good Kid Club and Tomoka First United Methodist Church.
“This is all about us coming together,” Tuten said. “We had 100% PTA involvement last year.”
Tomoka First United Methodist Church is about as good a neighbor as she could hope for, always willing to help in a variety of ways, including teacher-based mini grants.
“Teachers learn about new programs and our stakeholders help them get the needed materials so they can implement the programs into their classrooms,” she said.
Positive reinforcement and encouragement are the school’s growth mind set.
“Making mistakes is not a bad thing, it helps us learn,” Tuten said. “That stigma of not knowing is on the way out the door. It is important for us to help the students who are struggling and to move those who get it up to the next level.”
Attendance was not an issue at the school, but tardiness was, so a Behavioral Leadership Team of teachers was established to encourage timeliness, and a trophy is given to the class with the most on-time attendance.
“We involve the whole family and try to figure out the problem and help with it,” Tuten said. “We have good communication with our parents.”
This year the school has also focused on teaching students what positive behavior looks like in every area of the school, from when they are on the buses to lunchtime in the cafeteria, and the classroom. A bulletin board across from the office says “Change Your Words – Change Your Mindset” is a colorful prompt for students to practice.
“We are teaching Be Safe; Be Respectful; Be Responsible,” Tuten said.