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Global Learning Academy on a destination to success

  • Sep 28, 2016
  • Reggie Dogan
Judy LaBounty sitting at a table Judy LaBounty sitting at a table

Judy LaBounty, principal at Global Learning Academy. Credit: Reggie Dogan.

This is the fifth in a series of installments on the improvement plans principals are implementing at the 11 Escambia County elementary schools that received a D or F on the Florida Standards Assessment.

ABOUT THIS SERIES

Learn how Weis Elementary is working to improve student learning from the earliest ages.

Learn how Holm Elementary is working to improvement achievement among its students.

Learn how Warrington Elementary plans to boost student achievement.

Learn how Sherwood Elementary focuses on parent outreach and teacher training for school improvement.

Learn how Lincoln Park Elementary is working to strengthen relationships among staff, parents and community.

Learn how Ensley Elementary is planning to boost math and reading skills as part of the school’s improvement plan.

Learn how Oakcrest Elementary is building stronger relationships to increase student learning.

Learn how West Pensacola Elementary is helping students and teachers get resources to improve academic achievement.

Learn how Montclair Elementary is reaching out to the community and increasing parental engagement to improve student achievement.

Global Learning Academy is more just an elementary school. It is a high-tech, energy efficient, state-of-the-arts community center.

Constructed with 80 percent of recycled material, the school’s stairwells let natural light shine in. Sensor lights adjust to the sunlight. Lights automatically shut off in empty classrooms.

Classrooms are fully wired for computer hookups, and many of them are loaded with the latest technological bells and whistles. The innovative center is topnotch with a snazzy stairway in the middle of a classroom leading to the upper floor. There are smart boards, document cameras, whiteboards galore.

In the center parents have access to a resource room, a place they can go to use the phone to search for a job, create a resume or surf the Internet.

“If you talked to anybody in this this community they recognize that we try to be the hub of this community,” said Principal Judy LaBounty. “They recognize that we’re doing everything that we can to help our students.”

That means going above and beyond the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic.

It could mean providing a pair of shoes but it also might be spending a little bit of extra time after school with a student, providing food and clothes, passing out morning snacks, making late evening home visits or taking a parent to a doctor’s appointment.

“When you work in a high-poverty school, it's much more than people think,” LaBounty said. “The people who work here understand that this is more like a mission than it is a profession.”

global-learning-academy-map

With more than 700 students from predominantly low-income families who reside in the neighborhoods identified in the Studer Community Institute’s “pockets of poverty,” Global sits off Pace Boulevard on North P Street, between Cervantes and Garden streets, adjacent to the Escambia County School District Office. It is one of 11 elementary schools in Escambia County that received a D or F on the 2016 Florida Standards Assessment.

Global Learning Academy, North P Street, Pensacola.

Enrollment: 750.

Teachers: 39 Pre-K through fifth-grade, 6 special education teachers.

Free- or reduced-price lunch rate: 100 percent.

Demographics: 84 percent African-American; 10 percent white; 6 percent multiracial.

When it opened in 2011, Global Learning Academy was designed to be a global experience for students. They start in kindergarten learning about Antarctica and finish in the 5th grade in North America.

Global dropped a letter grade to a D after earning a C two years in a row on the previously used Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, commonly known as FCAT.

global-hallway

LaBounty, who is in her 31th year as an educator in Escambia County, has some experience in turning a struggling school around. During her tenure at Hallmark Elementary, where she worked as the elementary resource teacher, she was a part of the staff that in 2009 helped raise Hallmark’s school grade from an F an A.

LaBounty began her career at Oakcrest Elementary. There, she taught third grade for 14 years and fifth grade for six years before moving to Hallmark.

Formerly the assistant principal, LaBounty is in her third year as principal at Global.

Of the 39 teachers, six are ESE teachers in grades kindergarten to fifth. It’s a full inclusion school, meaning that Exceptional Student Education is integrated into the regular classroom.. Global offers only one VPK class.

LaBounty understands that one of the first and critical steps in any school improvement plan is getting the right teachers in the right place.

“I’m looking for a teacher who is dedicated, a teacher who recognizes that they are doing much more than just teaching reading, writing and math,” LaBounty said. “Somebody who is willing to go the extra mile, to put forth that extra effort, because students in order to close that gap, they need a little bit more, and we have to have teachers who are willing to go a little bit above and beyond.”

At Global, teachers collaborate in teams on lesson plans, using initiatives like Whole Brain Teaching and Marcia Tate strategies.

Whole Brain Teaching combines direct instruction, sharing and immediate feedback, while incorporating key learning steps into their everyday classrooms.

Marcia Tate strategies are 20 steps to engage and involvement students in learning that has shown proven success across the country.

An extended day is part of the School District’s improvement plan for low-performing schools. Bounty said Global will use its extra hour to target five areas of reading: vocabulary, fluency comprehension, phonics and phonemic awareness.

“We're going to target those five areas of reading in a different way using some materials that the district is able to provide for us and then resources that we already have here that we know are working for us,” LaBounty said. “Sometimes it's the consistency of using those resources for a little while, because if you're constantly changing what you're doing, then you don't really know how successful you're going to be.”

Getting students and teachers on the same page is a not nearly as hard as getting parents — and grandparents — involved in their children’s education.

Much research exists about the importance of parent involvement in education. The research overwhelmingly indicates that parental involvement not only positively affects student achievement, it also contributes to high quality education and better performance of schools overall. Yet both schools and parents struggle with how to make that involvement happen.

It’s no different at Global, but LaBounty is making inroads for engagement.

Using the Multi-Tiered System of Support, LaBounty uses data and documentation to help parents understand what and how their children are doing.

The school provides math, science and reading activities for parents to learn the lessons and help their children at home. The hold report nights and keeps an open-door policy for parents to come and go.

One thing that has been a benefit is FSA chats. Parents of every third-, fourth- and fifth-grader meet with the administrators and the student, and the student shares and talks about his or her “success binder,” and the work being doing to prepare for the annual state testing.

They also share websites, activities and classroom assignments to give parents the chance to get involved in school to help their child be successful, LaBounty said.

The depths of poverty are multi-generational and run deep among some students at Global. Many students are being raised by grandparents or other relatives. Other parents are working low-paying jobs or struggling to find one.

The school has set up clothes and shoes closets, a food pantry and a backpack program that sends food home with the students for the weekend.

“Those kinds of things really help us to do what we need to do in the classroom because they're not having to be focused on those basic needs that they don't have,” LaBounty said. “We need to be here for the whole child, and sometimes for the whole family.”

LaBounty sees her work at Global as a journey. The destination is to help students, their parents and the school reach their highest potential and become a beacon of light in education. Her ultimate and immediate goal is to make Global an A school, becoming an island of prosperity surrounded by an ocean of poverty.

“We are on the road to success and we’re going to be driving as fast as we can to help to get them as far as they can at the end of the school year,” LaBounty said. “If we have to make some pit stops along the way that’s OK. If we have to change a tire we’ll do that, too.”



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