IN THE PHOTO: U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) recently attended the 2011 National Community Schools Awards Ceremony to honor Roy Clark Elementary in Tulsa, Okla., the recipient of the 2011 Community Schools National Award for Excellence, for their continued success in the classroom. “Today, I recognize the educators at Roy Clark Elementary for their dedicated service to teaching our youth,” said Inhofe. “This prestigious award showcases our teachers’ efforts to hold its young students to high academic standards. This is imperative for every student and their future success. I applaud the hard work by the educators at Roy Clark Elementary and their continued efforts to ensure the progress of all students.”
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Gretchen Haas-Bethell, Executive Director of Communications
Union Public Schools
May 19, 2011 — It was a dream and a prediction come true for Roy Clark Elementary Principal Theresa Kiger who celebrated with her staff Monday after winning a National Award of Excellence from the Coalition for Community Schools. Union’s Clark Elementary was named one of only three schools recognized across the nation this year. Kiger and Superintendent Dr. Cathy Burden will pick up the award June 16 in Washington, D.C.
Surrounded by staff, Union administrators, and representatives of the Tulsa Area Community Schools Initiative (TACSI), Kiger congratulated her staff. “I shared with you 10 years ago that one day we would be a National Community School and, thanks to everyone’s hard work, we have been named a national winner!”
The Coalition for Community Schools established the national awards program to highlight the effectiveness and efficiency of schools, such as Clark Elementary, which has been a community school since 2005.
In notifying Union, a coordinator with the Coalition for Community Schools Institute for Educational Learning, Maame Ameyaw, wrote, “We are proud to be presenting this award to a school with such a strong focus on results and partnerships as well as providing an engaging curriculum for all of your students.”
Clark has partnerships with agencies and organizations including TACSI, the YMCA, Junior Achievement, local businesses, community groups, neighborhood organizations, and other schools. It also provides on-site healthcare services through a partnership with OU Community Health and hosts imaginative after-school activities that engage students. Staff, parents, and volunteers provide outreach services in the community as well as facilitate connections between families and social services they may need.
Clark Elementary School’s accomplishments include:
Kiger said, “One unique aspect of the Community Schools program is the absence of a single partner model. Rather, community support comes from more than 30 partners working to optimize learning conditions. Serving the whole child defines the culture of Clark, and our staff exemplifies a learning community invested in success for all of our students.
“Looking at the accomplishments we have made since becoming a Community School five years ago, we have seen effective instruction, high expectations, results-based planning, engaged learning, and incredible student success,” said Kiger.
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Tulsa World story, 6/15/2011:
By KIM ARCHER World Staff Writer
Union's Roy Clark Elementary Principal Theresa Kiger remembers when the school first got a grant to bring in fresh fruits and vegetables for breakfasts and lunches.
"Many children had not ever tried fresh fruits and vegetables," Kiger said. "They were gnawing on the banana skins because they didn't know how to peel them."
As a community school, nutrition is just one of many areas the school addresses to break down barriers so students can achieve academic success.
Clark was recently named a 2011 National Community School, one of only three in the country to be honored by the national Coalition for Community Schools in Washington, D.C. The two other schools are Ethel Taylor Academy in Cincinnati and Glencliff High School in Nashville, Tenn.
All three schools will be recognized at a national awards ceremony Thursday in the nation's capital.
"They're (Clark) one of our flagship community schools at Union," said Jan Creveling, senior planner for the Tulsa Area Community Schools Initiative at the Community Service Council.
Community schools provide a web of support and resources to improve the academic, emotional, physical and social development of its students.
At Clark, the results have been staggering. Absenteeism has dropped to near zero. Reading and math scores have risen dramatically. And the school has increased its parent-teacher conference participation to 100 percent.
"We have seen enormous gains in student achievement because we're looking at each individual child," Kiger said.
For now, Tulsa's community schools are located in low socioeconomic areas to level the playing field for students. But the concept is spreading, Kiger said.
"The reason is, it's just what's best for kids," she said.
Clark, at 3656 S. 103rd East Ave., became a community school in 2005. But even a decade ago, Kiger predicted the school would one day be named a National Community School.
"When you leave Tulsa and see what other (community) schools are doing, and then you come back to Tulsa and you see what we're doing - it is above and beyond what the norm is in the United States," she said.
In addition to public funding, Clark relies on community partners - philanthropic groups, nonprofits and corporations - to help pay for a large portion of services. The school has more than 30 community partners.
So far, only Union and Tulsa school districts have community schools in the Tulsa area. But Broken Arrow and Sand Springs will soon adopt the philosophy for its schools in the poorest areas, Creveling said.
The community school concept draws from 100 years ago when the schoolhouse was the "hub of the community," Kiger said.
Doors are open all hours so kids can use the gymnasium or parents can use the computers for job searches. Teachers make home visits to check on each child's specific needs, she said.
The school has a health clinic, a mental health counselor, after-school clubs and activities, piano and violin lessons, tutoring and much more.
"Mr. Roy Clark himself has helped with guitars and violins and Orff instruments like drums and xylophones," Kiger said.
Staff meetings are held to discuss each individual child and their needs, whether it is academic, mental health or other issues.
Creveling said community schools also reach out to parents to teach them how to be their own best neighborhood advocate.
"For us, it really breaks down the barriers to being a successful student," she said.
Read more from this Tulsa World article at http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=19&articleid=20110615_19_A1_CUTLIN148904
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Tulsa World Letter to the Editor: Call to Action
By Kathleen Workman, Owasso
Congratulations to Principal Theresa Kiger, the driving force behind Clark Elementary's national award for Community Schools. I know her tenacity well.
It was my honor to supervise elementary schools at Union Public Schools and one day I said to Theresa, "What would your school look like, what do we need to do to ensure all students learn at the highest levels? How can we help teachers, and parents? Let's dream." And we did. The document created that day contained the first baby steps to making a dream into reality.
My heart sings for the success of every student - made possible by the resiliency of a superior principal and dedicated teachers and staff who won't accept failure; a visionary superintendent who provides unflagging advocacy; the Community Service Council for expanding its role in Community Schools; and generous community members who provide essential support.
This is not just an honor for Clark Elementary, but a call to action for legislators. The Tulsa World editorial ("Schools dealing with funding cuts," June 15) states, "the schools have a job to do and the Legislature is making that job more and more difficult."
I'm challenging legislators and Oklahoma Superintendent Janet Barresi: Come to Clark, listen, ask questions, and learn. We have national-level proof that all children achieve to the highest levels and educators who know how to do it. The burden is yours to prove your focus is on student achievement, not political agendas.
Thank you, educators and community members, who give us hope and joy.