Hazelwood elementary school wins national recognition

Learn why this school – just one of three in the nation – is recognized for their outstanding efforts to educate students of color and low-income students …

Menlo Park Elementary School is one of three schools nationally that’s been presented the 2014 “Dispelling the Myth Award”.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

When The Education Trust, an organization that promotes high academic achievement for all students at all levels, held their Twelfth Annual “Dispelling the Myth Awards” on November 13, only three elementary schools in the nation – in Georgia, Upper Michigan and in the Hazelwood neighborhood of outer East Portland – were selected for honors.

Menlo Park Elementary School, in the David Douglas School District (DDSD), located on NE Glisan Street, was bestowed this honor because the school has “Shown success in educating students from diverse racial and socioeconomic backgrounds, effectively ‘dispelling the myth’ that these students’ challenges are insurmountable,” the official announcement said.

Menlo Park Elementary Principal Kellie Burkhardt here holds the “Dispelling the Myth Award” presented to her school.

While Menlo Park Elementary Principal Kellie Burkhardt is new in her job at this school, she remarked that it is her 26th year in education – first as a teacher, and then as a “School Improvement Coordinator” for DDSD.

“Having our school receive the ‘Dispelling the Myth Award’ goes back to our district’s philosophy, that we are here for all kids, and all families, who come through our doors,” Burkhardt told East Portland News. “This means we ‘meet them as they are’; and we believe that every child can learn and grow.”

Ms. Prebel’s kindergarten class participates in an interactive “story time” session.

The school begins with its core instruction, Burkhardt explained, making sure teachers have the time and wherewithal to collaborate, to ensure that lessons are focused on what students need to know. Then begins a careful system of intervention for students who aren’t initially successful, which increases the levels of support to those who need it.

“We’ve also tried new things – for example, using ‘Rosetta Stone’ software to help the newest English learners begin to master English conversation.”

These kindergarteners appear fully engaged in their class.

Not to compare DDSD to other school districts, Burkhardt said she believes these schools do well because their philosophy comes from “the top, on down” throughout their organization.

“From Superintendent Don Grotting, on down through our teachers, we are, in essence, a 1,200-person ‘family’ – each of whom believes in supporting one another, as we educate our students,” Burkhardt opined. “And, we have strong, well-developed systems, ranging to from student behavior expectations, to academic achievement.”

Although Menlo Park received the award, Burkhardt said that all DDSD schools provide a good education for their students. “I think Menlo Park staff has an exceptional work ethic, and have the right factors and places to achieve that at this level.

In this class, Emily Varner’s 3rd grade is learning about science.

“This means having hard-working teachers and staff all the way around, dedicated to serving our students, their parents, and our community,” explained Burkhardt.

When the class bell rang, the students and teachers started their next class. Just another day of learning, at this now-nationally-recognized school.

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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