Challenged Durham elementary school reaches out to parents to succeed

Lakewood Elementary School struggles with test scores and poverty. But its parents are building a path to success.

hpaytes@newsobserver.comFebruary 2, 2013 

— Behind the brown brick facade of Lakewood Elementary on Saturday morning, rocket ships took flight, circuit boards were assembled, and strawberries were smashed and analyzed by parents, students and staff.

The activities were all part of the school’s “Rocket to Adventure” event, designed to reach out to local families and showcase the school to potential parents as the school district gears up for its annual magnet fair and lottery.

“We are trying to say, ‘Hey guys, we are here,’ ” said Charlotte Cummings Crone, the event’s organizer and parent to two Lakewood Elementary School students. “There is more here behind the numbers.”

The school is recognized as a priority school by the state, meaning that 50 to 60 percent of students are at grade level or below. For the 2011-12 school year, 46.3 percent of students were at or above grade level for reading and 67.9 percent of students were at or above grade level for math. Lakewood Elementary is also a Title I school, with more than 90 percent of students on free or reduce lunch.

To change the numbers both teachers and parents must be invested in the school, Crone said.

“Of course you want your baby to go to the best school,” she said. “But if you are an involved parent, the reality is your kids are going to succeed no matter where they are.”

Recruiting

Crone’s children, Ellie, 8, and Jack, 9, are in the second- and fourth-grade at Lakewood Elementary School.

Katrina Ryan, who attended the event with her husband and two children, said she hoped that by attending events like “Rocket to Adventure,” the school could become a better place for everyone.

Although Ryan’s daughter Macy, 7, doesn’t attend Lakewood, Ryan said she values that the school exposes its students to other cultures.

“We are looking for more families to send their children here,” she said. “Hopefully, together we can make it change for the better.”

Lieu Rolan and Mini Kpa, two fifth-graders at Lakewood who attended the event Saturday, said this is their first year at the school but that they have enjoyed it so far.

“I like school,” Lieu said. “If I missed one day of school, I would feel really bad. I might miss something important.”

‘It’s a family’

Principal La’Kesha Roberts said the school prioritizes technology and science-based learning to teach students skills they can use throughout their lives.

“We are preparing them for a technological age,” she said. “We want them to constantly be getting that exposure to technology-based experiences.

“It just amazes me that you can see a five-year-old or six-year-old work a PowerPoint.”

The school also offers programs for gifted or struggling students to keep children motivated regardless of their level of achievement on end-of-grade tests, she said.

Roberts said the teachers’ passion helps to motivate the school’s students as well. The school’s turnover rate is 5 percentage points below the district average.

Instructional assistant Donna Burnett said she has stayed at the school for the last 13 years because “it’s home.”

“It’s a family,” she said. “We all collectively love the kids, and we want the best for the kids. That’s it. That’s it for me.”

Paytes: 919-836-4918

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