Island Academics

An educational column for parents and students

by Local School Officials

Third grade students at Guy H. Benjamin Elementary School enjoy books donated to the school by the Rotary Club of St. John. St. John Tradewinds News Photo by Eliza Magro.

Community Partnerships 

By GBS Principal Dionne Wells

First of all, let me begin by saying thank you to all those who made the opening of Guy H. Benjamin Elementary School such a success. Without the support of the faculty, staff, parents and community, we would not have had such a wonderful beginning. School is off to a great start!

My teachers have hit the ground running, very revived and ready to give our students the best possible education they can offer. Our parents came in for their orientation with the teachers, which was very productive. Teachers were able to communicate to parents their expectations, policies and procedures and parents were afforded the opportunity to get to know their child’s teacher. It is very important that all parents exercise their rights and visit the schools as much aspossible, because when parents partner with school, students succeed.

I am blessed to have such a dedicated staff. My teachers came in and really got their classrooms together. They painted, dusted, swept and even mopped to ensure their classrooms were inviting for both the parents and their students. The students’ new furniture that was donated by the Coral Bay Community Council and the annual Flotilla fundraiser also added to the ambience of the classrooms.

We are happy to be a Reading First School this year. Our goal is to have all our students reading at grade level or above. This is a challenge, but we are ready to face it head on. The Reading First program targets grades K-3. Our K-3 teachers have received their first set of trainings through Read First that focused on strategies in phonics and phonemic awareness. Throughout the year, they will receive a series of professional development trainings that would help them to improve reading instruction.

Research indicates that if a student is not reading at grade level by the end of third grade, they will never be on grade level. Our vision is to get our K-3 students to that benchmark and provide intervention for our students on the 4-6 level in hopes of creating some new data of our own by having all our K-6 students at benchmark. This is not going to be an easy task, however with the dedicated staff that I have, I am sure we will close that achievement gap.

Our faculty and staff were fortunate to be included in an initiative that began at Julius E. Sprauve School to implement the Conflict Resolution Creatively Program through the use of Educators for Social Responsibility curriculum. The grant for this program was written by Mrs. Lecia Richmond, physical education teacher at JESS. It was funded by the St. John Community Foundation and we had two days of training at Caneel Bay Resort.

My teachers were excited to get back to their classrooms and implement what they had learned. The training provided us with strategies that could be used in the classroom to get to know our students and to successfully manage them within the classrooms. The objective was to improve our school’s climate in hopes of changing our community’s climate for the future.

Our ambition at GBS is not only to educate through academics but to focus on the whole child. There is a second component to the program where the consultants come back and visit each classroom, train parents on the same strategies that could be used at home and provide the faculty and staff with a final day of workshops.

This endeavor is quite costly, but it’s worth the effort. Resources are limited at GBS and our contribution to this endeavor is $5,000. We are seeking donations from the community to help us with the cost. Please contact me at the school if you are interested in providing some assistance. Any contribution would be greatly appreciated. It takes a village to raise a child and we must work together to ensure that we provide the best opportunities possible for all of our students.

Guy H. Benjamin School is definitely moving forward. I am honored to be a part of that movement and look forward to sharing our success stories with the community. We welcome any partnerships with the community and extend an invitation to all to visit us when you have the chance.