Pea Ridge Elementary on top in community involvement

  • July 23, 2015
  • /   Reggie Dogan
  • /   education

Brenda Dwiggins didn’t know what to think when the director called and said they needed to talk.

Dwiggins was shocked to find out what she’d done.

As assistant principal at Pea Ridge Elementary School, Dwiggins helped put together the project and submitted the application that led to the Pace school earning Florida’s 2015 Family and Community Involvement Award.

Pea Ridge was one of only 10 schools statewide to earn the prestigious honor, joining Leon County’s Griffin Middle School in Region I.

“Oh my gosh! When the director called and told us we had won, I was speechless,” Dwiggins said. “I’m still on Cloud Nine.”

{{business_name}}Brenda Dwiiggins, Pea Ridge Elementary School assistant principal

Dwiggins this week returned from the Florida PTA Leadership Convention in Tarpon Springs, where she picked up the award and got a chance to meet and mingle with other winners from around the state.She rubbed elbows with Commissioner of Education Pam Steward and Florida Parent Teacher Association President Mindy Haas.

The highlight of the trip, she said, was picking the brain of other award-winning school leaders, sharing ideas and learning new techniques to help Pea Ridge become even better.

Winning the award brings recognition and pride to Pea Ridge. But more than the accolades received, the real reward goes to the students.

As a result of the hard work put into the project, Pea Ridge science scores rose 55 points from September to January.

“We feel this success was due to the project-based learning experience of our Science Explorium event,” Dwiggins said. “Our science scores of our fifth-graders were also the highest in the county.”

Each year, the Family and Community Involvement Award recognizes exemplary family and community involvement programs from across the state that focus on welcoming families into the local school system, providing effective communication, supporting student success and promoting collaboration among stakeholders.

Pea Ridge earned honors for implementing programs that encourage increased family and community engagement.

The school’s project, the “Science Explorium,” linked with the community in a collaborative STEM-based initiative involving teachers and students in grades K-5.

Teachers piqued student interest by introducing and exploring different inventors, past and present, using all kinds of resources, mostly Discovery Education. They assigned video clips, virtual labs and collaborative research assignments.

“Everyone does a science fair, and we just tried to make it different.”

It made a difference, and the state noticed the important link the school made with the community.

It’s hard to underestimate the importance of parent and community involvement in schools.

According to the recent MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, teachers, parents and students all agree that parent engagement in schools has increased over the past two decades.

Given the role that family engagement plays in not only academic success, but life’s success, that’s good news.

However, the survey also noted that parent engagement remains a challenge for many schools.

Pea Ridge is a rare exception. The award speaks to its creative, collaboration efforts to engage stakeholders in school activities.

Of nearly 800 students, 132 of them and 172 parents turned out for the Oct. 23 Science Explorium.

Santa Rosa Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick credited Principal Dana King Fleming, the staff at Pea Ridge and the PTA for working together “to pursue excellence by providing students and the community with an evening of science and technology that encourages higher learning.”

At a time when schools are clamoring to get parent and community involvement, Pea Ridge is shining example of how schools can pull families and the community together as useful partners in education.

“We have outstanding teachers and staff working in our state’s schools, but nothing can replace the love and encouragement of a parent or guardian,” said Commissioner Stewart. “As a former teacher and principal, I have seen firsthand the positive impact family and community involvement can have on the lives of students, and I commend these schools for proactively developing meaningful initiatives involving more family and community members in meaningful ways with our students.”

Dwiggins clearly understands the need for schools to connect with its community and engage parents and families in the learning process.

“It’s important because children feel that what they’re doing in the classroom has value,” she said. “We say it definitely takes a village for kids to be successful, and without children there’s no need for us to be here.”