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Last week I traveled to Pass Christian, Miss., to conduct a webinar with the leaders of the district to talk about the kinds of things that help move a district forward.

The things they talked about are very similar to what school leaders say when they talk about what moves a school forward — a laser-like focus on what kids need to know and be able to do and a commitment to building the culture and climate that allows kids to learn. (To read more about the webinar, see my column this week in Huffington Post, or you can go straight to the webinar here.)

After the webinar, I was joined by Ed Trust’s Sonja Brookins Santelises, vice president for policy and practice, for a quick, two-day trip I called the “Southern Swing” to drop into three schools that in the past have won Ed Trust’s Dispelling the Myth Award — Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School in New Orleans, La., as well as Calcedeaver and George Hall elementary schools in Mobile, Ala.

They are all doing fabulous work for kids, and I was glad to learn that two of the schools — Bethune and Calcedeaver — are looking forward to moving to new buildings in the next year or two. Bethune is in an old building with tall windows and creaky wooden floors. I love its old-fashioned vibe, but so do legions of termites that are eating it up, window ledge by window ledge. New Orleans is building a new building to house the children of Bethune.

Calcedeaver is currently in one of the worst physical plants I’ve ever seen for a school. It has a tidy, little brick building where the younger kids are, but the older kids are in a series of bunker-like buildings and deteriorating trailers. “I’m just glad the kids won’t have to use these bathrooms anymore,” Susan Jill Dickinson, the principal said, as she showed me a grim tiled cell.

The district is finally building a new school down the road; it will be a big change to have all the classes and bathrooms in one building, but the kids at Calcedeaver will have a clear demonstration that the people of Mobile County believe in their future enough to invest in the present.

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