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Gretna school exceeds expectations

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By Robert Allen

Gretna Elementary School received an Exceeding Expectations Award from the East Coast Technical Assistance Center (ECTAC). Reginald James, district superintendant, presented the award during a ceremony and press conference May 13 at Gretna Elementary School. 

“It’s an enormous feat because we are being compared to schools throughout the state of Florida,” said Sonja Wilson-Lewis, a reading specialist at Gretna Elementary. “We strive at being the best in Gretna. We teach the kids no matter what your economic situation is, not matter what’s going on at home, you can be one of the best students in the state of Florida.”

Academically, the award is a measure of the school’s achievement in both math and reading

“We strive for excellence,” said Chinita Bascom, a third-grade teacher at Gretna Elementary. “We expose our students to a variety of genres so they are exposed to everything. Life is difficult as it is — so in order for them to be successful, they have to be able to read and understand what they are reading. It spirals over into our math and science areas as well.”

Students taking interest an ownership in their reading seems to be a critical part of this process. 

“We allow them to read some of the things that they want to read,” said Wilson-Lweis. “That’s what you have to do with students — allow them to read what they want to read so we can get them to read what we need them to read.”

According to a May 12 press release from the school district, ECTAC members consider a combination of criteria, including FCAT scores, classroom observations, teacher interviews and student interviews. 

The same press release said only schools with 50 percent to 100 percent of students qualifying for free or reduced lunches are eligible for this particular award.

“We don’t use that as an excuse,” said La’Ronda Lee, assistant principal at Gretna Elementary. “We go with our district, ‘no excuses.’”