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Diverse and Proud of It

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Diverse and Proud of It

 

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The first thing you notice when you walk closer to Seaton Elementary are the red banners on the door. They’re not very large, but they definitely have Chinese characters on them.  It’s a few days after Lunar New Year but they’re not what you’d necessarily expect from an elementary school in historic Shaw. The cheery bit of red is a visual surprise in a landscape of barren trees and slushy streets so indicative of an endless winter. Seaton, too, is full of surprises. It’s a place where many languages are spoken, where math teachers quiz students in the halls, and where students learn how to play instruments they didn’t even know existed. Bottom line: Seaton is a place with lots of happy children.

Read an interview with Principal Kim Jackson to find out why.

 

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Those red banners on the door

Many people don’t know how diverse we are. We’re 11 percent Asian, 46 percent Latino. We have African-American and white students. We acknowledge and welcome the sharing of different cultures.

We have three major cultural celebrations each year. In October, we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Same for Black History Month in February and Asian Pacific Heritage Month in May. The community comes together and there’s a lot of parent involvement.

For each month, we’ll have a school-wide assembly in which classes share or perform. In the evening we have a festival—music, dancing, and food. It’s just a day filled with cultural enrichment.  Last year embassies were involved. For example, as part of Asian Pacific Heritage Month, the Embassy of Indonesia taught our students to play the Angklung (an Indonesian instrument made of bamboo tubes attached to a bamboo frame). 

On salad and police

We have great partnerships that have added great value to our school. The Kennedy Center, Washington DC Police Foundation, Sweetgreen. That’s just a few. They all add value to our learning community.  We have a garden and it’s very active and that’s because of the RiverSmart grant (supporting innovative schoolyard greening projects that promote learning about the outdoors). Sweetgreen comes in to talk about nutrition and healthy eating. They bring veggies and the boys and girls can make different types of salads. MPD Officers have weekly talks about making good choices and other life matters. They take the kids on some great trips; they recently went to Gettysburg.

 

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Teachers with flashcards attached at the hip at all times

I am extremely proud of our early childhood teachers. We’re a Tools of the Mind (research-based early childhood curriculum) school. Teachers do a beautiful job of working with pre-K students. The staff is laying a wonderful foundation.

I’m really proud of my math and literacy team. We had significant gains this past year. We went up over 20 percentage points on DC CAS (DC Comprehensive Assessment System) for math. They’re so dedicated. You see math teachers bringing flash cards into the halls and they’re going over math facts with the kids who are waiting to be dismissed or during the transition period. They don’t waste one minute of time.

I’m also very proud of our afterschool team. They know what our school goals are and they are creating and designing our afterschool program to align with what we’re doing during the school day. We have a “power hour” in which the afterschool staff instruct for an hour. We have additional guided reading for students to build their reading skills. The students also go to the computer lab to use the same blended learning programs we use during the day.

 

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Morning announcements

We have boys and girls do morning announcements. I love the fact that they practice; they’re willing to do the additional preparation and they get to school earlier.

Every student at Seaton wants to do morning announcements. At the beginning of the year our guidance counselor gives the requirements-- Seaton pride, attendance, and of course, being in uniform. She talks to teachers about how to select students. We’re very clear that it’s not just about the academics. We’re not just looking for the best readers or writers. We’re looking for students who work hard, for students who have shown kindness to their classmates, too.

We had a student back in December who was phenomenal. I told him, “If you start coming to school every day, we can make this happen.” And he did.

 

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Onward and upward at Seaton

Our attendance has really improved. We are very excited that 96% of our students have high attendance records!

Last year DCPS did a survey with our students. The Student Satisfaction Survey showed that 97% of our students love being at Seaton. I will tell you I was just ecstatic when I saw those results!

I was very touched. I was like 97%?! When I got the results, I was sitting behind my desk and was just like, “What!!” It’s a principal’s dream. It all came together--all the hard work and all that we’re doing-- it is absolutely worth it. The kids are feeling it and getting it. It’s a testament to the staff that is so dedicated to meet the needs of the kids.

One of the items last year that we had identified as an area to work on is the parent engagement piece. We are a Family Engagement Partnership School with Flamboyan (a foundation that partners with DCPS to increase parent engagement in student’s learning) and we set a goal for the end of 2013 to have a certain amount of home visits with our parents. We exceeded that goal. We are very happy and proud to be a part of that.

I’d love to see Seaton busting at the seams. I’d love to see boys and girls knocking down our doors to come. It’s already such a wonderful learning environment. This is a place where boys and girls are happy and want to learn.