PEOPLESTOWN — Clara Taylor, the interim principal at D.H. Stanton Elementary School and considered a key factor in helping keep the school from closing in last year's redistricting, has been fully appointed to the post.
The Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education approved of the change earlier this month.
Taylor, working with the school's parent teacher association and neighborhood leaders has been busy preparing Stanton for a major initiative, FranklinCovey's "Leader In Me," a school-oriented program structured around fostering leadership qualities in students.
The program, which parents mapped out as a part of a turnaround plan that they developed last year for Stanton, is designed to increase academic success in addition to building students' leadership abilities.
Stanton's effort, which is slated to be rolled out next month, is to serve as a pilot program for APS and it follows similar efforts in other school systems which have yielded positive results.
Leader In Me is based on "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" philosophy of Stephen R. Covey, the leadership expert who died last year.
In the meantime, the school has created a points program designed to encourage those behaviors that foster learning and discourage the ones that don't.
That points system — the kids receive points for doing good things that they can redeem for fun activities — is divided into three categories, Thomas Ford, assistant principal, explained.
First, there's the "incentives" category where students receive points for coming to class on time, participating in classroom discussions or keeping quiet.
At two-week intervals, students can redeem their points toward class and schoolwide activities such as pizza parties or other events kids would enjoy, Ford said.
But points also can be taken away and the second category is what the school calls "consistent consequences" where a student has up to six chances to correct bad behavior or face after-school detention, having mom or dad called for a conference or a silent lunch.
The last category is the Saturday School Academy.
Rather than suspend students, the school has designed the Saturday program to bring them to school on their off day.
"We need our students here," Taylor said, explaining the school and parents didn't want kids missing valuable school time.
"We wanted to stay away from having our students be suspended out of school."
So for those students who find themselves in the Saturday School Academy, they will be required to come to Stanton from 8 a.m. to noon on the third Saturday of the month.
As part of that, they will be required to write a self-reflection piece on why they are there, Taylor said.
The also will have a one-on-one discussion with the student — either Taylor or Ford — to set goals around what is expected of him or her.
And the last part of Saturday Academy is work project at the school.
It could be doing some task in the school garden, or playground or some other work aimed at fostering the student's sense of pride in his or her school.
"We want them to learn from it," Ford said, adding it was designed to be as much of a learning opportunity for students as possible, as opposed strictly punishment.
"We want them to know that there is somewhat of an academic focus we have."
An out-of-school suspension remains for the most severe cases, Taylor said, though the hope is that this approach will make that a rare occurrence.
The school's PTA also created a "uniform bank," to help provide Stanton uniforms to the 15 percent of students who don't have them.
Students are required to wear khaki pants with red, black or white polo tops.
But some students don't have uniforms for one reason or another and the PTA came up with the idea of the bank for those kids who need them.
Parents and the public at large are being asked to donate gently used khaki pants or red, black or white polo shirts that their children might have outgrown or donate new items if they choose.
Anyone interested in participating is encouraged to contact Siobhan Raines, Stanton's parents liaison, at 404.802.4200.
Uniforms have been the norm at Stanton for a while and Taylor said they are a critical piece of the educational environment at the school.
"They are so important," she said. "It takes the focus off from what they're wearing and allows us to put attention on what's important, which is learning."