Six PCPS schools are receiving well-deserved recognition for making gains and overcoming extraordinary challenges.
The schools — Alta Vista Elementary, Dixieland Elementary, McLaughlin Middle, Philip O’Brien Elementary, Purcell Elementary and Snively Elementary — were previously in “turnaround” status after receiving consecutive low grades from the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE). Turnaround schools are closely monitored by the state and must follow detailed improvement plans to increase their grade.
Last year, each of the six PCPS turnaround schools increased their grade from a D to a C. As a result, they are no longer under the microscope and can shed their “turnaround” label.
The FLDOE is not issuing official school grades for 2020-21, because many Florida schools experienced significant academic declines as a result of the pandemic. However, schools can opt-in to receive a letter grade if they wish; PCPS is following that process for the six turnaround schools.
On Tuesday, administrators from each school were celebrated during the Polk County School Board meeting. PCPS officials praised the schools’ students and staff for their determination, which led to improved grades even as the schools wrestled with the additional hardships posed by COVID-19.
“We couldn’t be more proud of them, not just for their leadership but the fact that they had great, hardworking teachers at those schools who did tremendous work with those students — and the students continue to work hard,” said Patricia Barnes, a PCPS regional assistant superintendent who oversees turnaround schools. “We are just proud of the faculty and staff and the students for their work.”
Frederick Heid, PCPS’ new superintendent, also lauded the efforts of the many employees who helped the schools improve, including former Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd. Heid recalled his own previous experiences working with turnaround schools and said the process can be daunting.
“The lift is heavy … it is a burden unlike any other, the pressure is there,” Heid said. He said the six PCPS schools accomplished remarkable things in 2020-21:
“To do it in the midst of COVID, amongst all other things. To show that level of improvement, I can only wait with sheer excitement to see what comes out this school year.”