“We are extremely fortunate to have the outpouring of parent, community and district support to help ensure that our students have the best opportunities to reach their goals,” Long said.
The School Bell Award, presented by the Georgia Association of Elementary School Principals, is given to 10 schools in Georgia each year in recognition of outstanding programs in curriculum and leadership.
“Increasing family and community engagement, for the purpose of improving student outcomes, is a major priority at Canton Elementary School STEM Academy,” Long said.
Canton Elementary serves a diverse group of students, said school spokesperson Carrie McGowan, with 89 percent of children qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches and 40 percent of students needing English to Speakers of Other Languages services.
McGowan said the school was selected for the honor based on its “outstanding initiative” to improve the school climate and increase engagement through communication.
“Ms. Long collaborated with the Instructional Leadership Team, PTA and the School Advisory Council to develop plans for the initiative to support three school goals: improve school climate, enhance communication and encourage community relations,” McGowan said.
The initiative resulted in the creation and expansion of numerous events and services, McGowan explained, including many programs specially geared toward helping families in need and those whose native language is Spanish.
Cherokee Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo said Long and Canton Elementary School earned the recognition and congratulated the school, staff and community.
“Beth Long and her staff have enlisted community partners, pursued grants and worked tirelessly to bring great opportunities to the school and its students,” Petruzielo said.
Petruzielo said everyone at Canton Elementary has done a great job providing resources to the school community.
“The leadership team at Canton Elementary School, along with teachers, support staff and parents, have worked hard to ensure they are providing students and families with the resources and support they need to be successful,” Petruzielo said.
Some of the programs made available through the Canton Elementary initiative included “creating a Parent Resource Room and expanding the Canton Care Closet to provide materials and essentials for families in need,” as well as “expanding use of translation services for parents whose native language is Spanish, and providing all emails and newsletter information in dual languages,” McGowan said.
The initiative also led to additional technology being integrated in classrooms for students who did not have access at home, enhanced staff training targeted at ESOL family engagement and support and events held by the school to engage students and create excitement about learning, McGowan said.
Long said the programs, events and training resulting from the initiative have led to greater community involvement, improved morale and increased student motivation.
“Parents and community stakeholders have become more informed about the school’s challenges, strengths, needs and successes through this initiative,” Long said. “The school is eager to receive results from standardized tests to determine the impact this program has had on student achievement.”
Long said she and the school are fortunate to have support throughout the community, and said she hopes to continue the school’s success.
“Our goal is to continue to engage parents and business partners in meaningful and authentic ways to support student learning,” Long said.
McGowan said being selected to get one of the 2014 School Bell Awards is a testament to the community.
“The selection committee chooses exemplary programs that show positive results and reflect significant involvement of staff, students, parents and community,” McGowan added. “The award will be presented, and the school will be formally recognized, during the Association’s Fall Principals’ Conference in Savannah.”
The school and Long will also be recognized by the superintendent and school board at the July 23 meeting, which begins at 7:30 p.m., at the historic Canton High School Board Auditorium, at 111 Academy St. in Canton.
This is not the first time a Cherokee County school has been given the award; last year, Free Home Elementary School was awarded the honor.