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‘Learning On Display’

Clayton School District hosts third Academic Gallery

Photo by Jeylin White
Chorus students at McGarrah Elementary greet their school’s assistant principal, Bobby Rorie, with warm hugs after performing at the school district’s third Academic Gallery.

Photo by Jeylin White Chorus students at McGarrah Elementary greet their school’s assistant principal, Bobby Rorie, with warm hugs after performing at the school district’s third Academic Gallery.

Terrel Hamilton couldn’t stop doting over his son, Dontae, 7. The proud papa was beaming as the Mt. Zion Primary School second-grader stood before scores of Clayton County residents and school system officials, and declared that he would be the next president of the United States.

The scene of his ambitious announcement: the Clayton County Board of Education Administration Complex, during the school district’s third Academic Gallery, earlier this week.

“I know I have what it takes to be the next president,” said the youngster, using his oratorical skills to demonstrate some of the things he’s learned in the classroom. His father –– who said he came out to show his support –– agreed. “I’m just so very proud of [my son,]” said Hamilton.

The purpose of the annual event, according to Deputy Superintendent Stefanie Phillips, is to showcase the result of the learning process that takes place in schools, as teachers engage students in rigorous, “real world,” performance tasks that are aligned with Georgia Performance Standards.

“It’s really important that we document the progress our students are making,” said Phillips. “We [need to] validate the things they’re learning, and show them the connection between the real world and the curriculum.”

According to Gloria Duncan, coordinator of professional learning, and the event’s organizer, the main feature of the “academic galleries” is the lineup of display boards on which students and teachers –– from each of the schools represented –– showcase special work and projects that demonstrate to the community and parents what students have been doing in school. In short, evidence of the pupils’ mastery of the curriculum.

The participating schools in the third round of galleries were: Lake City Elementary; Mt. Zion Primary; Northcutt Elementary; Smith Elementary; Lee Street Elementary; Kilpatrick Elementary; Kemp Elementary; Roberts Middle; North Clayton Middle; Morrow Middle; Riverdale Middle; Morrow High; Mundy’s Mill High; Riverdale High, and Rex Middle, the magnet school.

Things got started with a song-and-dance routine by students from the McGarrah Elementary School of Fine Arts, under the direction of Claudia Bradford, the music teacher at the school. The group performed three songs: “Long Distance Please,” “Sing, Sing, Sing,” and the patriotic theme song, “This Is Our Country.”

After the opening performances, the members of the community convened in the board room were district officials announced the winning schools from the November academic gallery: Those schools were the following:

Elementary Schools. First place: Huie Elementary with a project showcasing “Students as Investigative Reporters.” First place: Fountain Elementary with a project portraying “Students as Civil War Writers.” Second place: King Elementary with a project depicting “Students as Authors.”

Middle and High Schools. First place: Jonesboro Middle with a project focusing on technology entitled, “Students as Environmentalist Consultants.” Second place: Forest Park Middle with a project showcasing “Students as Concerned Citizens of Georgia.”

During this week’s event, the winning schools received a certificate of achievement from Clayton County Public School Superintendent Edmond Heatley and district officials.

Blondie Walker attended the event to support her granddaughter, Oliver Elementary third-grader, Toni Gittens, whose project was entitled, “Students as Environmentalists.”

“Our goal is to show people what they can do to protect our environment,” said the third- grader.

Walker, who works for the Dekalb County School System as a media specialist, said she was impressed with how the district showcased the students’ work. “I always said Clayton County’s school system was Georgia’s best-kept secret,” said Walker, “Clayton County Schools is coming up to the top in a cool way –– especially in technology.” She added that she believes the system’s teachers and parents are “impeccable.”

Superintendent Heatley said he was impressed with the number of community members who came out to support the gallery. This week’s crowd was, by far, the largest group.

“It was the first time we had to open the top rafters in the board room,” said Heatley, “It shows that parents and community members care about what’s happening in our schools and want to know what our students are learning,” he said.

The next, and last, Academic Gallery is scheduled for May 1, and will also be held at the Board of Education Administrative Complex, located at 1058 Fifth Avenue, in Jonesboro, from 5 p.m., to 6:45 p.m.