Brook Avenue Elementary: Living into Excellence
By Hannah Rigg
A neighborhood school. Each morning children are dropped off at the front entrance of Brook Avenue Elementary School and personally greeted by Brook Avenue staff as they make their way to their classrooms. Each afternoon, those same families are congregated outside of the school waiting to walk home with their children. This is what a neighborhood school looks like.
Brook Avenue is in the second year under the leadership of Principal Sarah Pedrotti and Assistant Principal Jessica Torres. They are faced with the challenge of leading Brook Avenue out of the Improvement Required status as set by Texas Education Agency (TEA). You may have read recently that Brook Avenue is one of the five Waco ISD campuses that is at risk of closure at the end of the 2017-2018 school year. Although the threat of closure is one reality, excellence is the reality that Brook Avenue is living into. To ensure excellence, it will take the full dedication of this Waco community.
In the three full months that I have been working at Brook Avenue, I have experienced a transformed campus. Students are provided with opportunities to improve their reading skills through CIS groups, Kids Hope USA mentors, and literacy groups with staff. Students receive a book on their birthday.
When students miss class, they miss instruction time with their teacher and classroom engagement. We need our students in the classroom actively engaging in the work they are completing to ensure increased test scores. At Brook Avenue, attendance is rewarded at each six-week period in order to encourage students to come to school consistently.
Communication between the school and community has increased, and so has the level of involvement.
Brook Avenue is redefining itself as a neighborhood school where families and community members are invited onto campus. The first Tuesday of each month you will find a group of parents gathered in the lunchroom for Coffee and Conversations. The November meeting was filled with determination as parents refuse to allow Brook Avenue to fall below standards for another consecutive year. Every parent in attendance signed up to volunteer to read with students or to support teachers by completing preparation activities.
As Brook Avenue continues to work towards success, they are creatively supported by their new staff provided by the Texas Title I Priority Schools (TTIPS) Grant, Columbus Avenue Baptist Church (Kids Hope USA Mentors), Communities in Schools (CIS), Klaras Center for Families, and the BEAR (Be Emotionally Aware and Responsive) Project. Each agency has responded zealously to the call for improvement this school year.
The TTIPS grant has allowed Brook Avenue to become a campus of innovation. Initiated by parents and funded by the TTIPS Grant, an outdoor classroom will be created in the back of the school allowing teachers to uniquely engage their students during lessons. And, a Maker’s Space allows students to utilize creativity as they bring their learning to life. The TTIPS grant made it possible to purchase one iPad for each student to promote technological learning. It also heled support non-traditional seating options for classrooms so that the classroom can be arranged to better suit the learning styles of the children. The grant has also enabled additional learning trips for all students. These trips give students an opportunity to make connections between their classroom learning and hands on real-world experience. As a campus, we are honored that the state has recognized Brook Avenue as a priority for receiving this funding and it is essential that our community recognize Brook Avenue as a priority as well.
Look for the hashtag #BrAveLearns on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook throughout the year as we watch Brook Avenue achieve success. Our students are learning, our teachers are engaging, and our community is behind us. The next time you see Brook Avenue Elementary School in the news, look for their accomplishments.
Hannah Rigg is a student in the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work and serves as a social work intern on campus at Brook Avenue and West Avenue Elementary Schools through the BEAR Project. She has been living in Waco for two years and loves exploring this city.