TOOL–The Tool Elementary School Gym was standing room only as the school celebrated its ESEA National Distinguished standing March 7.
The National ESEA Distinguished Schools program publicly recognizes qualifying federally funded schools for the outstanding academic achievements of their students. It highlights the efforts of schools across the country making significant improvements for their students. The program has been in place since 1996, showcasing schools in one of three categories:
• Exceptional student performance for two consecutive years
• Closing the achievement gap between student groups
• Excellence in serving special populations of students.
Tool was recognized for closing the achievement gap.
Principal Christal Calhoun welcomed everyone as the students gathered in the front of the room, dressed in identical shirts with the words, “We rise up together” emblazoned on the front. The theme is evident throughout the school and each child seems to embrace the idea of community, of working toward one goal, success.
Calhoun is quick to give the credit to her staff and students, but when it was Superintendent Randy Perry’s turn to speak, he said, “One of the things I did right as a superintendent was to hire a young lady named Christal Calhoun.” It doesn’t take long when talking to Calhoun to feel the love she has for her students whom she calls “the stars of this show.”
The national distinction was given to only two schools in Texas and Tool Elementary was the only one to win for closing the gaps. With nearly 80 percent economically disadvantaged and a percentage of student mobility of nearly 40 percent, this is no small task. Calhoun and those she calls her “amazing staff” concentrate on each student reaching their potential.
Calhoun said “Tool Elementary is known as a family who loves to have fun. We work hard so we can play hard…It’s not about what’s the least you can do, but about what is the most you can do. This is the mindset we have.” As Calhoun recognized her staff, she said, “We realize how important it is to meet our students’ needs, so they can learn and we appreciate the many businesses, organizations, churches and community members that help meet our students’ needs…We want you to know you play a very big role in our success.”
TEA Associate Commissioner Cory Green told the audience that Tool Elementary competed with nearly 6,000 schools in the state for this award. “I have to say, your principal gets it…your kids are the star of this award,” he said. He also told the group that he goes to many different sizes of schools and districts and that Tool Elementary is “a small school that is doing everything right.” He addressed the parents when he said, “Research proves that it is your commitment and involvement with this campus and these teachers that makes these students so successful.” He also commended the teachers and staff calling them amazing and that this was not just a lucky year for the school, “This award means you are consistently doing outstanding performance with these students.”
They presented the banner that will hang outside the school, announcing the distinction.
There was a professional film crew at the school during the week preceeding the award ceremony, interacting with the teachers and students and filming the award ceremony. The video will be available at a later date.
Region 7 Executive Director Elizabeth Abernethy addressed the students, “You are so inspirational. You have done an amazing job and we are so proud of you.” She told the group she likes to think of her office as “the wind beneath the wings of the students and faculty, and congratulated Calhoun and Superintendent Perry, “It’s something you’ve dedicated your life to. You have my sincerest congratulations and appreciation.”