LAURINBURG — I. Ellis Johnson has been selected to receive a national honor for its approach to education.
The Laurinburg school was named as a Model School for 2018 by the International Center for Leadership in Education.
The award goes to schools that have made rapid improvements in teaching practices and have demonstrated growth for educational targets. About 30 schools in the country are selected each year for the honor.
In 2015, Johnson was an F rated school and has raised that grade to a C, but just under a B rating, in just two years.
LaTonya McLean, principal of I.E. Johnson is proud of her students and staff. The achievement is especially meaningful to McLean, who was a student at Johnson in the 1980s when it was a middle school.
“Just to see how far the students and staff have come, how hard they’ve worked, how much they’ve grown is a great honor.” McLean said. “These babies are so amazing. They come to school every day ready to work. They’re always happy to be in school, and that’s our thing. We want them to feel loved and supported as they strive to be the best they can be.”
McLean said the students and faculty are working hard to maintain their achievement and keep moving up the ladder.
The announcement was made Tuesday during a pep rally-style assembly complete with members of Scotland High School’s marching band’s drum line and cheerleaders. The celebration coincided with the 100th day of school. Students were decked out in homemade hats celebrating the 100-day mark along with inspirational chants, applause and cheers.
The students were treated to cookies and punch following the assembly.
The administration of IEJ applied to the International Center for Leadership in Education to share its achievement in the hope that others might be able to apply similar programs to improve their schools.
The work of raising Johnson’s school report card grade began under Mary Hemphill, former IEJ principal, who focused the school on instruction, empowering students and professional development for its faculty.
“I truly attest it to the students and the community with supporting the vision for I. Ellis Johnson, and I think it is befitting that it is the hundredth day of school because I could give you a hundred reasons why every single person in this building worked so hard and continues to work hard for us to strive for excellence,” said Mary Hemphill, former principal of IEJ. “I could not have been prouder to have led them and to have worked with each and every one of stakeholders here.”
A lot of Hemphill’s work as principal was not only reaching and encouraging the students but the faculty as well.
“Every tool is going to reach one child, no child gets there on the same path, so the more tools you put in a teacher’s tool box, the more strategies you give them, they can say whether Johnny or Suzy, I’m going to get you to point B. We can use a different tool, but I’ve got something in my arsenal just for this baby. That’s why professional development is important,” Hemphill said.
Hemphill is proud of the work that McLean and the rest of the school has done.
Superintendent Ron Hargrave was equally proud of the improvement the school has made and the fact that it had been chosen as a model school.
“I remember three years ago when were in the cafeteria for an opening meeting and were talking about the report card grade that had just come out, I said, “You are not what that report card said you are,” Hargrave said. “Along this journey, I have never heard you make excuses, never heard you blame the children, never heard you say we can’t get out of this. That says a great deal about how you came together as a staff.”
Hargrave asked the students to stand up and give their teachers a round of applause.
I.E. Johnson and others schools chosen will share what they have learned and implemented at the 26th Annual Model Schools Conference, June 24 to 27in Orlando.
“At the Model School Conference, I.E. Johnson will have the unique opportunity to share inspiring ideas for innovating and transforming teaching and learning to better prepare students for the world in which they will work and live,” said Willard R. Daggett founder and chairman of the International Center for Leadership in Education.
The goal of the conference is geared toward rapidly improving K-12 schools and districts.
“We are proud to honor and showcase this future-focused school for implementing a rigorous and relevant curriculum that engages and challenges students to think beyond the classroom to solve real-world problems,” said Daggett.
Model Schools are chosen using criteria such as data-validated growth year over year, evidence of a strong culture that puts students at the center of learning and dedication to transforming instruction to meet the needs and demands of the future.
The conference is in its 26th year.
The International Center for Leadership in Education was established in 1991 and is located in Rexford, N.Y. It helps schools to identify and disseminate successful practices to aid students in reaching higher standards. The center has assisted numerous state education agencies and hundreds of schools and districts in their improvement initiatives.
Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169