• Mann School Turnaround OP ED
    Entered by Patrick Wallace 
    Please click below for link to published Op Ed or read it below the link.

    Successful turnaround at Horace Mann Elementary

    April 14, 2015 12:00 am • By Patrick Cummings

    A study by UCLA indicating that St. Louis Public Schools were suspending elementary school children at an alarming rate was the talk of the town. Front page stories in the newspaper, radio reports and television stories were the order of the day. Once again, the negative story about St. Louis Public Schools received all the attention while a positive story went unreported.

    About the exact same time as the UCLA study was released, the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes at Rutgers University shared the results of its research project that praised Horace Mann Elementary School in St. Louis for making remarkable improvements in student achievement. In fact, Horace Mann Elementary was one of only three schools in America to be recognized by CEELO.

    Horace Mann Principal Nicole Conaway has a simple motto for her students and staff: “Make it happen. No exceptions. No excuses.” Everyone in the school follows her lead. As a parent, I see the results first-hand and appreciate the dedication and hard work that has gone in to turning around my child’s school.

    The CEELO report tells the “rags to riches” story of Horace Mann Elementary School. Just a few short years ago, the school was unaccredited and one of the lowest-performing schools in Missouri. Enrollment was on the decline. It was a school that could have easily been closed. However, Superintendent Kelvin Adams designated Horace Mann as a Superintendent’s Zone School and helped it qualify for federal School Improvement Grant funds. And most importantly, Conaway was brought in as the school’s new principal.

    Under Conaway’s leadership, utilizing the grant funds, the school rebounded. Test scores improved steadily each and every year, and the school regained accreditation. Enrollment soared, and the school is now at full capacity. So, how did Conaway and Horace Mann Elementary School do it?

    First, Conaway hired specialists in reading and math and beefed up the social-emotional support for students by improving family and community engagement. She placed a strong focus on the early grades and made sure that parents felt welcome at school. Conaway also insisted that teachers make better use of data to figure out how to teach each student on an individual basis. In short, she demanded the best for our children and she has been successful in getting it.

    As a parent, I entrust my child to the school and expect him to get a quality education in a safe and caring environment. I firmly believe that is happening at Horace Mann Elementary School under the watchful eyes of Conaway and her staff. I think the research project conducted by CEELO confirms it as well.

    But, I know this is the Show-Me State, and people in St. Louis need to see it with their own eyes. That’s why it is so sad that the negative study gets attention and a positive story goes untold. I encourage everyone to read the CEELO study at ceelo.org and learn about a real jewel in St. Louis: Horace Mann Elementary School.

    Patrick Cummings is president of the PTO at Horace Mann Elementary School.

    Letter to the editor in response of Op Ed:

     Nice to hear something positive about old school
    April 17, 2015 12:00 am 

    Thank you for printing Patrick Cummings' article about Horace Mann Elementary School ("Successful turnaround at Horace Mann Elementary," April 14). It is so nice to hear something positive about my grade school. A few years ago, I feared we were going to see the closing of the school. I have scanned the article and sent it to some of my friends, who are also alumni.

    My mother and seven of her siblings attended Horace Mann. The oldest brother went to the school on Bent Avenue while the present building was being constructed. Then I went there and graduated in January 1952, the 50th anniversary year. Our guest speaker at graduation was Fannie Wade Gutgesell, the first principal.

    My principal was Ward Parker, who had graduated from the school in 1927, the 25th anniversary year. How disappointed I was when the 100th anniversary was pretty much ignored in 2002. I have a lot of memorabilia, and in the year preceding the anniversary, I called and left messages for the principal offering any assistance I could give. I never received any response. I also heard that parents tried to have some celebration but nothing was ever done. Principal Nicole Conaway is a breath of fresh air and hope!

    Ann Schwerdtmann Rother • St. Charles