Committed educators, effective schools

Lisa Presley/Tahlequah Public Schools

Schools are looking toward the end of an instructional year, making notes of successful practices and discussing areas to improve. Researchers agree on several characteristics of effective schools. While academic performance is an indicator of successful schools, other elements scaffold school effectiveness.

High expectations of students and teachers are an anchor for each day at Tahlequah Public Schools. The elementary schools implement the tenets of Great Expectations to support the culture of an effective school. Greenwood Elementary was recently awarded Model School status for a seventh year. Teachers are the foundation for building school climate and all staff implement GE classroom practices.

Each year, staff elects a Teacher of the Year to represent a site. Greenwood Elementary chose first-grade teacher, Leslie Richardson, as that representative. Richardson is a model of the teacher that Great Expectations founder, Charlie Hollar, envisioned in every classroom. She fits the description of each of the classroom practices and sets high expectations for herself and students.

Monitoring student performance, analyzing data and setting goals and direction for instruction are key to growing students. Administrators and staff participated in Collaborating For Results training focused on developing strong Professional Learning Communities. Teachers meet weekly reviewing student performance data and making instructional plans to meet the needs of students. Additional tutoring is planned and offered during the day and after school to support needs of students.

Another factor influencing school effectiveness is community partnerships. Tahlequah BEST Coalition, TPS and Cherokee Nation support Farmers’ Market visits to schools. During the fall, farmers visited Greenwood Elementary to share farming and gardening information, while allowing students to purchase vegetables and fruits with veggie bucks provided through a grant. Access to a digital story about the markets can be found at The ground has been turned and the school gardens are ready for busy hands to begin a new growing season.

An important community partnership supporting TPS is the Education Foundation. The Foundation funded many grants this year including five grants for Greenwood Elementary. Jessica Robinson received a grant allowing the purchase of tablets to support instruction in the literacy lab. Leslie Richardson received a grant to purchase mini-tablets for each of the first-grade classes for instructional activities. Kym Tinsley was awarded a grant to support robotics instruction through the use of tablets, GoPro camera and a 3D printer. Nikki Molloy will be “cooking for a cause” with the new cook stove and utensils provided through the grant. Small groups of students will be learning to cook. The library will have additional mini tablets to allow students to access online books thanks to the grant awarded to Deena Jones. TPS thanks all of our community partners.

Effective schools also challenge students through additional educational programs. Funding is an issue all schools face when adding programs to the school day. TPS appreciates the support Boys & Girls Club has given in developing after-school robotics teams at the elementary level. Greenwood began with one team last year and has expanded to four teams this year. Parents and coaches have reported student growth in many academic areas, as well as communication. In addition to building and driving a robot, students complete Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) projects and present to judges at competition. Projects include Elements of Flight, Designing a Useful Tool, Engineering in the Classroom and Building Bridges. Teams participated in the VexIQ state competition on Saturday, March 7, at the NSU Event Center.

Committed educators create effective schools and we strive each day to provide the best for the students of Tahlequah.

Lisa Presley is superintendent of the Tahlequah I-35 School District.