More than money: one principal is turning her middle school around by malting the neighbors responsible for it.When Lorraine Cruz walks into Ames Middle School each morning, she passes through metal detectors and an X-ray machine Noun 1. X-ray machine - an apparatus that provides a source of X rays
apparatus, setup - equipment designed to serve a specific function
fluoroscope, roentgenoscope - an X-ray machine that combines an X-ray source and a fluorescent screen to enable direct , devices that serve as a reminder of the situation she walked into when she became Ames' principal in the summer of 2004.
When her predecessor left, half of the teachers also took flight. "There was a big disconnect disconnect - SCSI reconnect between the teachers and the students," said Cruz, the fourth principal at Ames, which opened in 1998.
Of the school's nearly 400 eighth-graders, 125 were enrolled in the summer school program. Other area schools had just five or six students in summer school, she said. "I was thinking, 'How can this be? What is going on here?' I expected year one to be a rebuilding year."
She didn't stop building after the first year.
Cruz prioritized literacy, partnerships with community leaders, focused professional development and student discipline. She also developed a new curriculum. Three years later, the school is improving. The percentage of Ames students who meet or exceed Illinois State Board of Education The Illinois State Board of Education or ISBE, autonomous of the governor and the state legislature, administers public education in the state of Illinois. Local municipalities and their respective school districts operate individual public schools but the ISBE audits performance standards has risen each year since 2003, climbing from 31 percent to 38 percent, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. board data.
Researchers have identified leadership, like the kind Cruz has displayed, as one of the concrete ways to close the achievement gap and reverse the disadvantages facing students from poor families.
"The mindset mind·set or mind-set
1. A fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person's responses to and interpretations of situations.
2. An inclination or a habit. of schools being holding places and housing centers and babysitters--that's not what we are," Cruz said. "By bringing everyone in, they see that that's not what we are. So the impression of what a school is changes. And it changes in a positive way."
Cruz admits that the school was "in chaos" when she arrived. Teachers, weary of administration shifts and unruly students, had descended into "survival mode," she said. Most of the teachers' feedback centered on disciplinary issues--like how to identify gangs, how and when to call the police, and how to break up fights.
A product of the surrounding sur·round
tr.v. sur·round·ed, sur·round·ing, sur·rounds
1. To extend on all sides of simultaneously; encircle.
2. To enclose or confine on all sides so as to bar escape or outside communication.
n. community herself, Cruz knew what her students faced when they weren't in school, such as the 29 gang territories crisscrossing their routes to Ames each morning and the fact that many students' parents were gang members.
Cruz gathered community leaders, including police commanders, aldermen, clergymen and board of education members. She told them: "You are the leadership of the community that I am serving, and I need help with what happens between home and here. I can't do this by myself."
Cruz continues to meet with the leaders each month, and student safety remains among the school's top priorities, along with programs and curriculum, said Nancy Aardema, executive director of the Logan Square Logan Square is the name of:
v. o·ver·crowd·ed, o·ver·crowd·ing, o·ver·crowds
To cause to be excessively crowded: a system of consolidation that only overcrowded the classrooms. schools in the area. "She's been really driven on this safety issue," she said. "She doesn't let anyone forget."
Cruz also sought stronger connections between teachers, parents and students inside the school.
She hired a lead literacy teacher and held extensive interviews to find other educators who were passionate about teaching and who believe in their students' potential. Cruz also wanted more racial diversity among her staff. Most of Ames' teachers were white while all of the school's students were African American African American Multiculture A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. See Race. or Latino.
She's focused on professional development by training all staff, including lunchroom workers and janitors, increasing parental involvement through efforts like a "walking" school bus--at least 20 parents accompanying children on their walks to and from school each day.
Cruz also tracks down grant money to supplement the school's budget and programming. Ames was the first school to participate in a $150,000 grant that allows six Chicago schools Chicago School
Group of architects and engineers who in the 1890s exploited the twin developments of structural steel framing and the electrified elevator, paving the way for the ubiquitous modern-day skyscraper. to implement the Facing History program, a social justice curriculum. "The amount of outside programs at this school blew me away, compared to even suburban schools or wealthier districts," said Katie Solimine Welsh, the lead literacy teacher at Ames.
As students gather in orderly orderly /or·der·ly/ (or´der-le) an attendant in a hospital who works under the direction of a nurse.
An attendant in a hospital. lines to depart at the end of the day, Cruz, in a light pink sweater and gray slacks, is there to hug them goodbye. She easily slips from English to Spanish, reminding "her babies" that there are "only 177 more days to go!"