Two Alexander County schools were among 16 Southern Illinois schools honored at an awards banquet for area schools in Marion April 29.
Shawnee Elementary School South was honored for the ninth consecutive year as a State Spotlight School, which the Illinois State Board of Education identifies as a, “high poverty school where high academic performance is closing the achievement gap,” which is seen in many schools throughout the state. Cairo Junior/Senior High School was honored for its academic improvement over the last three years.
Zena Madison, principal at Cairo Junior/Senior High School said she attributes her school’s award to new programs, which help boost reading test scores.
“We implemented the Read 180 program in the middle school several years ago, which has helped students tremendously with reading improvement,” Madison said. From 2010-2012, reading scores in the school’s seventh and eighth grades jumped 41 percentage points, a spike Madison attributes, at least in part, to the read 180 program.
Amy Reynolds, principal of Shawnee Elementary School South, said her school is lucky in that is has small class sizes which allows her staff to get to know all the 68 students enrolled.
“We work really hard to know what each and every child needs,” Reynolds said. She said this kind of personal relationship with students is monumental in her school’s continued success.
Though only one school’s award involved overcoming financial barriers, Janet Ulrich, Regional Superintendant of Schools, region 2, said many schools in her district and throughout the state have to deal with financial burdens. She said these awards are particularly meaningful in a time when the state is cutting funding to education and making many teachers’ and supervisors’ jobs harder.
“The districts are doing a lot more with their academics and educating children on a very few number of dollars,” she said.
Both Madison and Reynolds said teacher involvement is key to their triumphs and Ulrich agrees. She said the view from her desk is good.
“It’s an exceptionally good feeling to know that you have dedicated educators in the school system that will go above and beyond,” Ulrich said.
–Isaac Smith can be reached at (618)-734-4242