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Stockbridge school makes community involvement push

Photo by Johnny Jackson
Stockbridge Elementary School Principal Bonita Fluker speaks to the school's partners-in-education during its Community Meet-and-Greet Breakfast.

Photo by Johnny Jackson Stockbridge Elementary School Principal Bonita Fluker speaks to the school's partners-in-education during its Community Meet-and-Greet Breakfast.

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

As teachers, students and parents ramp up for another year of studying and playing in Henry County, a warm breakfast appeared to be the hardy way to kick off a new school year at Stockbridge Elementary School.

The school hosted a breakfast, Friday, with its community leaders to ring in the new year. Local businesses and government agencies had representatives in attendance for the meet-and-greet, community gathering.

"It's not just what we do inside these walls that makes the difference, it's also what happens in the community," said James Young, the school's counselor, and breakfast organizer.

The representatives from local businesses, government offices, and community organizations included Stockbridge Mayor Lee Stuart, and Peter Lewis, a member services representative with Navy Federal Credit Union, in Stockbridge.

Kenneth Gunter, the manager at American Lube Fast, in Stockbridge, also demonstrated his support. "Part of our responsibility is being a partner-in-education, and supporting the students when they do things like fund-raisers," Gunter said. "We leave the rest up to the teachers."

Gunter expressed his belief that schools in the Stockbridge area have produced upstanding citizens with the help of businesses like American Lube Fast. He said three out of five of his fellow employees attended the nearby Stockbridge High School.

"We want all of our students to meet our goals academically and socially, so that they can learn all the skills necessary to be lifelong learners," said Stockbridge Elementary School Principal Bonita Fluker, speaking to breakfast attendees.

"They are the leaders of our future," she added. "We want to be a foundation for these students, who have a thirst for knowledge."

Fluker credits the school's partners-in-education with helping students achieve academically. She said the school -- a kindergarten through third-grade primary school, with an enrollment of roughly 600 pupils -- has about 35 partners-in-education, including local businesses and government agencies that volunteer resources and time throughout the year to help the school meet its educational objectives.

The principal said partners-in-education are invited to participate in the school's Morning Breakfast Club Program, in which second- and third-graders receive academic tutoring from mentors.

Fluker said the school's math club is also supported by its partners. In addition, the community donates treats to be used in classrooms as rewards for math students -- an effort to keep their interest on the subject.

She pointed to the community support as having played a pivotal role in the school's success in making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for the eighth consecutive year, by making the grade on statewide assessments.

The Georgia Department of Education's preliminary 2011 AYP Report revealed that nearly 87 percent of the school's third-graders passed the math portion of this spring's Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests. The school also experienced a 14-percent increase in the number of students who exceeded state standards in math.

"We work hard, and we are proud to create what's needed for our students," said Soraia Santos-Felgenhauer, the school's assistant principal.

Felgenhauer said having a community presence at the school also is motivation for students. "Not only do our kids need the exposure, but they can be inspired when they're outside of the school," she said.

"They can see the community, and say 'I want to be like the mayor,' or 'I want to be like the police officer.' Just their presence in our school, helps our school."

Henry County Police Lt. P. Bratton said involving local police officers in local schools helps build a positive relationship between young people and law enforcement.

"Environment is an important factor. The home, the church, the community, and the school are those things that help shape ones persona," said Bratton, the day watch commander of the Henry County Police Department's North Precinct.