Within a genuinely child-centered school culture, there are certain non-negotiables. One of these is the solid, unwavering presence of a safe and intellectually energized environment. In this space, each child feels wrapped in a world where self-respect can flourish, where learning holds a deep and profound personal interest, and where teachers and families are bound together in the certain knowledge that the future our children create is founded on the education we give them today.
The school team must recognize the humanity and wholeness of the child as elemental to every interaction, every decision, every intervention. East Port Orchard Elementary is one such school, and this child-centered culture lights the life of just over 500 students whose families make their home in South Kitsap County.
East Port Orchard operates as a K-6 elementary school. Kindergarten is a half-day program. ECEAP (Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program) funds a preschool in the building and a group of self-contained classrooms house medically fragile students in kindergarten through grade nine.
Clear & Shared Focus
Today, more than fifty percent of the kids qualify for free- and reduced-priced meals, which means that East Port Orchard can take advantage of federal dollars (Title I) that target low-income schools. And although household incomes are low, achievement is stellar. Here’s one example: on state tests, fourth-grade math scores skyrocketed from 25% in 2001 to 86.8% nine years later. In reading, these students made the leap from a 55% pass rate in 2001 to 90.8% in 2011. Worth noting — during this same period, the percentage of kids who needed free- and reduced-priced meals also rose 20 percentage points.
Clearly, this kind of achievement relies on team effort, but the staff will tell you that it is the caliber of leadership that Principal Kristi Smith brings to East Port Orchard that ignited this remarkable turnaround. Smith focused the school clearly and single-mindedly on the student and the learning experience. She took small steps at first, building a literacy program to which all instruction, teaching and learning goals, and student-by-student interventions were tied. And, she brought professional development opportunities to her teaching staff that turned great teachers into excellent teachers. Once this new approach was in motion, there was no looking back.
- 530 students
- .8% ELL
- 50.5% F/R meals
- 15.9% special education
If we had to distill the formula for success at East Port Orchard Elementary, we might see these six guiding principles at work.
- Every child is of the utmost importance. Our common concern is the development of the whole child.
- We will care for and teach each child to the best of our ability regardless of SES (socio-economic status) level, background or aptitude because they are our most important link to the future.
- We collaborate to provide meaningful, child-centered instruction that motivates and challenges all students.
- Parents, school and community are active partners in the education of East Port Orchard students. We are all accountable.
- As caring, concerned parents, teachers and community members, we can achieve our shared vision through open, effective and continuous communication.
- Students will employ self-direction, knowledge and skills to become lifelong learners.
We Can Make the Connection
The educational direction and operational framework in play at East Port Orchard Elementary are grounded in the Nine Characteristics of High-Performing Schools. And it begins with a clear and shared focus — “Smith focused the school clearly and single-mindedly on the student and the learning experience.”
Awards & Recognition for Dedicated Work
We can draw a straight line from the hard, smart work of Kristi Smith and her staff to this amazing list of state and national awards.
- Washington State Rewards School, Part A & Part B 2012
- Washington State School of Distinction 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011
- National Title I Distinguished School 2009
- Washington State Title I Distinguished School 2011
- Title I Academic Achievement Award 2008
- Title I Learning Improvement Grant 2008