By Briana D’Andrea
The Royal Palm Beach Education Advisory Board listened to a presentation about Crestwood Middle School from Principal Stephanie Nance on Monday, Oct. 6.
Nance, who has been Crestwood’s principal for eight years and has spent 19 years working in Royal Palm Beach, started her presentation by discussing what she called the school’s four important tenets — attitude, dedication, respect and character.
“Our role as educators goes beyond what we do on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “It is our goal to continue to do what’s in the best interest of all students.”
Unfortunately, Crestwood was just eight points shy of gaining an “A” rating for the 2013-14 school year. “The last two years, Crestwood has been rated as a ‘B’ school… but we continue to strive ahead,” Nance said.
Although the school maintained an “A” rating from 2001 through 2012, she stressed that she and her staff are up to the challenge. She insisted that the school is making great progress and was just a few points shy of being an A-rated school.
“Out of the nine school accountability cells that we are measured on as a district, as a school,” Nance said, “Crestwood increased in six of those nine cells.”
Nance said that literacy is the foundation of all learning and that the school’s staff is committed to building a community of readers at Crestwood. “Reading and writing are not subjects,” she said. “They are skills that students will need in whatever facet of life, whatever content area that they are studying. They must have those two important skill sets in order to be successful.”
Things like the “Just Read” program and community literacy outreach programs at Barnes & Noble in Wellington help to foster that idea. Additionally, Crestwood is very active in the Sunshine State Readers program.
“Last year, we had 1,052 students on our campus and 60 percent of our students participate,” she said. “That means 60 percent of our students read a minimum of three of the 12 books that were recommended by the state.”
Crestwood is also committed to the arts in education, Nance added.
“At the end of the day, it is about providing a well-rounded education for all of our children,” she said.
In terms of the arts, Crestwood runs a successful art program, where the public is invited to browse student artwork galleries at www.artsonia.com.
Royal Palm Beach High School served as the host site for one of Crestwood’s theater art showcases. In music, 32 band and chorus members recently gained superior ratings and 16 took excellent ratings.
“When it comes to the education of our children, this is not something we take lightly,” Nance said. “We take it very seriously. It is a charge that we continue to keep. If we remember that it’s about putting our kids first, in my opinion, everything else is a matter of formality.”
Board Chair Lynn Balch asked about the number of students who are signed up for free and reduced-price lunch.
“Our free and reduced-price lunch, last school year, was at 60 percent,” Nance said, adding that Crestwood is also a part of the 100 percent free breakfast program, with the number of students increasing annually. “We are, on average, feeding 300 kids every morning.”
Vice Chair David Kendle said that he is personally glad to see that children are being fed before school.
“Probably due to the economy, people losing their jobs, downsizing, making less money, it doesn’t change the fact that we’ve still got to take care of our kids,” he said. “I’m glad that they’re stepping up and feeding our kids in the morning, because I think that has been a lot of the problem with kids being able to pay attention to the teacher.”
He stressed the importance of using taxpayer money to finance the program.
“I’ve seen kids sitting in the dining room when other kids are eating and they didn’t eat, and I think that’s sad,” Kendle said. “If they’re hungry, then they can’t learn. I came from a poor family, so I know what it is to be at that point.”
Florida schools are dealing with new standards this year, and according to Nance, the teachers at Crestwood are working toward making all of the necessary changes.
Last year, 1,052 kids were enrolled at Crestwood, but this year that number is down to 944.
Board members Renatta Espinoza, Chris-Anne Ayers and Klemie Christie were concerned with what the school is doing to get the students back.
“We provide campus tours for parents to come in and meet with administration and counselors,” Nance said.
She added that the school uses its web site, area marquees, flyers, the parent-teacher organization and school advisory council for community outreach.
“Any medium we can use, we use to get the word out,” Nance said.
Additionally, the school hosts different events such as its barbecue night and bazaar, literacy night and career day to retain and enroll new students.
Nance mentioned the importance of forging relationships with parents, which she called vital to the school’s success. With the help of a school’s active parent-teacher organization and school advisory council, combined with the belief that they’re part of something greater than themselves, that formula lends itself to the school’s success.
“Education has to be a partnership,” Nance said. “And ultimately, at the end of the day, these are all our children.”