Gulfport school helping neighbor pull up grades, boost morale

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - You've heard about adults mentoring children who are struggling in school or are considered at-risk of dropping out. What about an entire school mentoring another school?

On Friday, Pass Road Elementary and Central Elementary in Gulfport formed a unique partnership. It's a move that's supposed to help students excel and boost teacher morale.

When Kenny Hudson took over as principal of Pass Road Elementary five years ago, the school was barely a level three.

"There were a lot of needs here in the school. As a matter of fact, we had to replace 60 percent of the staff," said Hudson.

Today, Pass Road has moved up in the ranks to a High-Performing School.

"We did better than last year," Hudson said. "And last year, the state superintendent wrote us a $35,000 check for being a distinguished Title I School."

Its neighbor down the road, Central Elementary, wants to improve its test scores and achieve the same high-performing status. The school has also been dealing with a high teacher turnover rate.

"I am a first year principal. I have over half of my faculty and staff are new," said Central Elementary Principal Denise Bush. "I just really want to change Central around."

So on Friday, both schools hosted their first joint brainstorming session. The principal at Pass Road will serve as a mentor to the principal at Central. Actually, every employee at Pass Road, from teachers to secretaries, will help guide the staff at Central.

"Just a safety net of being able to pick up the phone and email someone and ask questions," said Hudson. "I think they'll come to an understanding that we're in this together and we have each other that we can depend on."

Several times a year, the faculty and staff from both schools will continue to get together to discuss lesson plans, share teaching strategies and offer support.

"I think it's awesome. I think it's a great opportunity for us to grow," said Bush. "We're all excited and pumped up, because we're doing the best thing for children. Going over there, planning, collaborating, just getting different ideas, it's all for the children."

Both schools plan to get together again around Christmas and before state testing. They want to celebrate their successes and share ideas on how to get their students pumped-up for the tests.

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