When Meredith Lowe became the new principal of the Andrew J. Morrison School at 5100 N. 3rd St. in July 2018, one of the things she did right away was to reach out to the staff of the school.
After having numerous meetings with staff members, they came up with a new agenda for the 2018-2019 school year.
“Entering this school year, we had three different agendas that we wanted to establish,” Lowe said. “We want to have a safe, efficient, and consistent environment. We wanted to focus on our academics; really looking at how we’re spending our time with kids academically that includes structure, the rigor of materials and also looking at how we were using assessments.
“It’s really easy to say a kid is below grade level, but I think we need to do a much better job of diagnosing as far as where are the gaps. We also want to prioritize strategic planning. Another thing that we’re focusing on is restorative practices. We have a new morning meeting program.
“Every week one of our teachers does a PowerPoint for every day that is social and emotional development and our fourth through eighth grade teachers do that morning meeting work with our students,” she added. “Our middle school dean Ms. (Kenya) Trent is leading our peer mediation work and is actually developing a peer mediation program that will help students handle their conflict and discomfort on their own.”
Last year, Morrison graduated a class of eighth-grade students where some of the students were below basic in math.
To make sure that this is not an ongoing issue in the future, Lowe along with her staff and the community decided to launch a strategic planning campaign called “Morrison 2028,” which will be the year the school’s current kindergarten class will become eighth-graders.
“This is an opportunity for us to really start to think differently about what we’re doing for those 90 kids in addition to all of our other students,” Lowe said. “We need to plan, allocate the resources, and invest in that idea that we are not going to let our students get that far behind.
“We’re investing a lot of time this year in materials, technology, and training to support a real focus on math,” she added. “We’ll launch a survey for our parents, alumni, students, and our staff members for the month of March. In April, we’re going to do focus groups at the same time as report card conferences.”
Lowe said the school is also trying to revitalize some of its facilities as well as bring more community partners aboard so that their students can have more opportunities both in and outside of the classroom.
“We’re trying really hard to start the process of revitalizing our outdoor space,” Lowe said. “Our current playground is concrete, so we need a playground that is safe for our kids to play. We’re also revitalizing our library space. The library is currently used as one of our classrooms, so I’m working to see if we can have it be both a library and a classroom. We’re also investing money to buy a lot of new books.
“We want to continue to invest in the community and enhance our community partnerships. Playworks will start working with us in April to help us facilitate a socialized happy recess. We also applied for an Americorps VISTA, which does community engagement work.
“If we get the VISTA, they will spend the year doing a need assessment and then looking for partnerships that matches what our school vision is,” she added. “We’re also finding more partners that is in the Olney section of Philadelphia. We have some work to, but we’re excited about all of the different opportunities we will be able to offer our students for years to come.”
During the Tribune’s visit, seventh-grade students in Yolanda Garrett’s math class were solving algebraic expressions on the smart board.
“Lately we’ve been doing assignments based around algebraic expressions,” said seventh-grader Kimora Williams. “Before that, we learned about fractions and decimals. We get a lot of math done in this class.”
Seventh-grader Gerald Floyd likes having Garrett as his math teacher.
“She’s a really good teacher,” Gerald said. “If we need additional help in our class, she is willing to help us. She doesn’t just challenges us in math, but also encourages us. I like having her as one of my teachers.”