Julie Beck But what became abundantly clear is that CGLA is more an example of how much of an impact school leadership can have—regardless of school type—than it is of anything else.
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Not everyone in Chattanooga was fond of charters and CGLA looked, at best, like a good idea gone bad. Math proficiency was in the single digits. Few students had solid prospects for the future. Last year, the school achieved a 93 percent graduation rate and nearly every graduate went on to college. Over the last decade, new research has increasingly suggested that strong school leaders are a crucial component of success, and even that turning around failing schools is virtually impossible without a strong leader at the helm.
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Most school leaders are reluctant to talk about data. Later, toward the end of my visit, I ask to go back and take a closer look at the data.
Swafford says sure, points me in the right direction, and chattanoooga he off to a meeting, leaving me to go over the charts and figures. But Swafford relishes the data, she has large chunks of it memorized, and, perhaps since the s seem to be headed in a positive direction, is willing to share. She also expects her staff to focus intently on data and to hold themselves able, which has been a challenge for some.
In fact, she favors an approach bbes education that more schools are considering but that not all are thrilled about or equipped to deliver: the community-school model. After we leave, I turn to Swafford a little surprised.
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Chattnaooga, she said, what the students say is not scripted, but someone from each class is expected to greet each visitor. As if to prove her point, Swafford takes me to a nearby eighth-grade algebra class where Carrigan Collins, 13, repeats the exercise.
Each student at CGLA is ased an adult mentor and Swafford recently hired a college-access counselor to help students work through the federal financial-aid application and to stay connected with recent graduates. Every other Wednesday afternoon, students have advisory periods and meet with their mentors. On the alternate Wednesdays, they work with local community partners like Girls Inc. Swafford also hired a wellness coach. There are yoga classes and zumba babez, and, the girls attest, Swafford can frequently be found sweating babed alongside her students.
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Where other school leaders might be able to imagine some of the extracurriculars and support services the girls at CGLA have access to, few seem as adept at actually securing the funding to deliver them. That fundraising effort is likely getting easier as the school gains more attention. Teachers are expected to believe that every child is capable of success and then help them achieve it by doing whatever it takes, regardless of any obstacles.
A of girls left for local neighborhood schools after Swafford promised, and then delivered, more rigor.
She is a self-avowed believer in the value of homework and does not tolerate discipline issues. Instead of sending students bsbes, though, she puts them in evening school. Across the board, the girls say they liked the school.
If anything, the challenges Swafford stands to face in the coming years will be the result of her success. There are chattwnooga tentative plans to partner with an all-boys school that may open in a couple of years directly across the street, and CGLA is considering expanding into the lower grades. But while the school continues to garner both local and national interest, Swafford is intent on not getting distracted.