Celebrating success

Published 9:19 pm Thursday, September 19, 2019

Florence Bowser Elementary School didn’t need to have the song “Celebration” playing to understand that it had much to celebrate at its Accreditation Celebration Tuesday evening.

After opening in September 2018, it spent its first year being accredited with conditions by the Virginia Department of Education. It was the same status accorded to the newly opened Col. Fred Cherry Middle School, which held its celebration Thursday.

Both schools, as did the rest of the school division, received word this summer that it would be accredited. The new Florence Bowser Elementary replaced Driver Elementary School and the former Florence Bowser Elementary, while relieving overcrowding at Creekside, while Col. Fred Cherry Middle helped to relieve overcrowding at John Yeates Middle School.

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“We had to basically earn accreditation,” said Florence Bowser Principal Melodie Griffin. “And so the students have worked hard. The teachers have worked hard. Parents have worked hard to get their children ready, prepared, and so with that, we have earned accreditation. And that, to me, deserves a celebration.”

Griffin outlined the challenges in getting accredited, noting that half of its staff was new, with 250 new students coming from Creekside Elementary School as well as those just moving into the division.

“With half of your staff new, and trying to get to know them, trying to get to know students, trying to make sure you know where they are, what kind of level of support they need, all of those things, the teachers worked hard to make sure their needs were met. That is why this is important, to be able to say to them, ‘Job well done.’”

The celebration carried throughout the school, with activities spread out in the kindergarten, first and second grade hallways, as well as the gym, art room, computer lab, library, outside and the cafeteria, where everyone was fed.

Griffin said the school emphasized everything.
“We had to make sure that every single thing, there was an emphasis placed on every subject, everything being taught,” Griffin said. “We wanted to make sure they had hands-on opportunities, hands-on learning. We’re in this beautiful building. We have project-based learning spaces, so making sure that we used all of those things effectively.”

Interim Superintendent Dr. LaToya Harrison was proud for Florence Bowser and for the entire division.

“It’s a significant achievement to achieve accreditation (in) year one without being able to factor in previous historical performance,” Harrison said. “And so, we’re tremendously proud of them.

“We have a tremendous sense of pride, division-wide with all of our schools achieving accreditation, but particularly when a school achieves it first year with such a big transition, a new staff and many new students and bringing all of those things together to achieve such a big goal in the first year.”

Harrison said having reached full accreditation at all schools, she wants to see the division take it to the next level and continue to improve. Griffin said the school won’t rest on its achievement. She said they would stress having students be proficient in reading, math and all areas.

“We have to keep going,” Griffin said. “We can’t stop now. This just gives us a push to say we’re going to keep going.”