By Julie Washburn Souza DEC 2011
Shirley Hills Elementary School in Warner Robins is a Houston County public school serving students in grades Pre-K through 5th. Founded in 1964, the school has long been a fixture in the community. The school was renovated in 1999, and a new wing of classrooms was added in 2005, making the school a more contemporary place of learning for a quickly growing population.
Shirley Hills is now a Distinguished Title 1 school with a free and reduced population of 67 percent. Schools named as Distinguished Title 1 institutions are academically successful schools achieving adequate yearly progress with high populations of economically disadvantaged students.
Now serving a student population of 550, Shirley Hills is still considered a quiet
neighborhood school with a warm, family atmosphere where teachers care deeply
about student achievement, and parent involvement is high.
Shirley Hills third and fifth grades tied for a first place ranking in the state of Georgia on the English Language Arts portion of the CRCT in 2011, just one of the academic honors of which the school can boast.
Students at the school have consistently excelled in academics, and the school has been recognized at both the state and national level for achievement. Shirley Hills became a School of Excellence in 1993, and since then, the school has been recognized for a number of achievements, including the “Writing to Win: Exemplary School of Writing
Award,” and the “School Bell Award.” The school has been named a Title 1 Distinguished School for nine consecutive years. Most recently, Shirley Hills received
the national honor of being named as a National Blue Ribbon School for 2011, one of only ten in th state of Georgia. National Blue Ribbon Schools are schools across the country recognized for excellence in student achievement.
In addition to the Blue Ribbon Award, the school received another honor when school principal Dr. Traci Jackson recently received the Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding School Leadership. The Bell award is given to school leaders who go above and beyond in an effort to ensure their students succeed. Dr. Jackson has been in education for 20 years. This is her tenth year as principal at Shirley Hills Elementary. Dr. Jackson received degrees from Fort Valley State (College) University, University of Georgia, and
Argosy University/Atlanta. Dr. Jackson taught fourth and fifth grades during her teacher tenure in Bibb and Houston Counties. Dr. Jackson is also an active member of the Warner Robins Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. (community service is one of her priorities) and First Baptist Church, Garmon Street. She is a member of the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders, Georgia Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Elementary School Principals, and Houston/Georgia Association of Educators.
Dr. Jackson attributes student success to the determination of teachers and staff to ensure that each child receives the best and the most personalized instruction possible. Dr. Jackson has implemented programs to encourage learning and to intervene when students need additional help.
Each school year begins with a “meet and greet,” where students and parents meet teachers and staff, and students get their book bags filled with school supplies and books. Early literacy is especially important to Dr. Jackson, and throughout the year, she distributes books and encourages students to read to her during drop-in visits to
classrooms and in special readers’ workshops.
Tech programs at the school include Accelerated Reading, Classworks, and Kids College. There are also two model literacy-based classrooms for county teacher observations. Teachers and staff use an Instructional Framework Model for teaching all content, FOCUS program for gifted and talented students, and many support programs for struggling students.
Parent involvement is fostered at the school, and there is a Parent Involvement Coordinator on staff who bridges the gaps between school, home, and community. Parents are considered a part of the “learning team” at the school, and Dr. Jackson coordinates enrichment events and self-help seminars for parents of students, helping parents with topics such as finances, time management, and computer skills.
Morning and afternoon tutoring is offered to students who need extra help. Not just teachers, but counselors, assistant principals, and Dr. Jackson herself participate in student tutoring sessions. Morning tutoring has been named “PAM Time” which stands for “Principal and Me.” “PRIDE” is also an intervention program offering school day remediation and enrichment learning opportunities.
Students attend music, art, and PE on a rotating basis. Extra-curricular activities offered include athletic programs, jump rope team, Jr. Beta Club, art club, dance team, orchestra/band, chorus, Media Shelve Elves, student council, Peer Helpers, Jr. Master Gardeners, and newspaper club.
Dr. Jackson says that she is always busy thinking of ways to encourage learning and ensure student success. Some new and exciting things in the works now at the school include leadership book studies and the implementation of Thinking Maps (kid friendly graphic organizers). The staff is currently making plans for administration and student book clubs.
High teacher and student attendance, high expectations for everyone, student interest in learning, faculty and administrative collaboration, parental and community involvement, school traditions and culture, and relationships are all factors Dr. Jackson says play together to make Shirley Hills a successful place for learning.
“Our school is unique because we view learning as a priority and our purpose for coming to work each day. There is a quiet sense of urgency that we never take for granted. This is our calling and our career. Teaching and reaching children is what we’ve been chosen to do, and we do it with a purpose,” Dr. Jackson explains. #