Bayvale Elementary School is among a select group of Richmond County public schools that may provide a road map to success others in the district can use.
At the small school off Milledgeville Road, 98.65 percent of the pupils qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, a status that is often used as a proxy for pupils living in poverty.
Of the 24 Title I schools in Richmond County – those that receive federal aid because they have high concentrations of pupils living in low-income families – that did make the federal “adequate yearly progress” standard, Bayvale had the second-highest percentage of pupils on free and reduced lunch. Only Jenkins-White Charter Elementary School, which had a 98.66 percent free-and-reduced lunch rate, was higher among those schools making AYP in the 2010-11 school year.
And the only other district schools with more than 90 percent of pupils qualifying for free and reduced lunch to make AYP last school year were Lamar-Milledge and Wheeless Road elementary schools.
Bayvale Principal Dana Harris is proud of her school’s success, but she is quick to deflect credit to her teachers, pupils, parents – and the surrounding community. During a recent interview, Harris said there is a triangle that helps a school succeed: school, home and community.
The staff is stable at Bayvale. Harris has been the principal for eight years, overseeing the year when the school set up shop next to Langford Middle School while its own building was extensively renovated. Many of Bayvale’s teachers have been there for a number of years, some long enough to teach children of former pupils.
The PTA is committed. While Harris is shy about accepting credit for success, PTA leaders heap on the praise.
“Dr. Harris has her finger on the pulse of what’s going on at school,” said PTA Treasurer Dawn Duncan. “She keeps the environment open and friendly. There is a lot more parent involvement inside the school.”
Duncan is a graduate of Bayvale, as are two of her children. She has two younger children who she plans to have attend Bayvale, and another who did until she was accepted at C.T. Walker Traditional Magnet School.
“My son was taught by my fifth-grade teacher (when he was) in fourth grade,” Duncan said, showing her own experience with the Bayvale faculty’s stability.
Harris proudly showed a reporter several classrooms. One kindergarten teacher, for example, animatedly read a story to his pupils, frequently allowing them to ask questions or make comments, while keeping them focused on the story. She also credited the district with keeping Bayvale and other schools technologically up-to-date. And some Title I money went toward purchasing an iPad for every classroom teacher. The teachers use the iPads to give a cutting-edge flourish to their lessons.
“Most of the teachers keep their Web pages updated,” Harris said. “Communication – e-mail, texts, phone calls, Global Connect, which allows us to send a critical mass message at one time to everybody – we keep our parents informed on upcoming activity at school.”
The principal added that while high-stakes tests such as the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test are important, the goal of the teachers and staff at Bayvale is ultimately to make sure the children learn what they need to know – both from the books and in life.
“It’s all about the kids,” she said.
PTA President Monique Mosley moved to Augusta from Waynesboro, Ga., two years ago. She has been impressed with Bayvale.
“My kids love school,” Mosley said. “It makes the parents feel good that the teachers are here for the students. It’s a job, yes, but they care for your kid. They feel comfortable coming to me and letting me know what’s going on.”