Giaudrone Middle School principal Zeek Edmond admits to a competitive streak, and he loves to share colorful bar graphs that demonstrate student progress.
“At one point, we were way down on the bottom,” he said, referring to his school’s performance on state tests. “Now, we are moving up in the ranks.”
Edmond is hopeful that when results from last spring’s tests are revealed this summer, Giaudrone will beat the state average.
“We started with a building full of kids,” he said. “Now, we have a school full of students.”
Teachers at the school, located just east of Interstate 5 near the Tacoma Mall, credit a well-defined mission, good leadership and training for Giaudrone’s success. Students and teachers exhibit school pride, a factor many say was missing in the past.
Deanne Crichton has taught science at Giaudrone since it opened in 2003. When the school underwent an SIG makeover, she applied to stay on, partly because of family ties to the neighborhood.
“I think the biggest change has been the overall climate,” Crichton said.
One example: Students learn organizational skills, such as how to keep binders with separate sections for each school subject. Parents tell her they appreciate students learning how to keep track of their own assignments, so mom and dad don’t have to.
Crichton said teachers know their job is not done.
“(School reform) is extra work, but it does pay off,” she said.
Under Edmond’s leadership, Giaudrone adopted the International Baccalaureate program, a nationally recognized college prep curriculum that focuses on global issues. With the IB focus, students have a wider array of classes to choose from, including foreign language, technology and art.
But, like Jason Lee and Stewart, Giaudrone also faces financial challenges with the end of SIG funding.
“We started right-sizing after year one,” Edmond said. In the first year of the grant, he employed 12 extra people beyond his traditional staffing. By this year, there were only six left, Edmond said, even while student enrollment has grown.
As the 2012-13 school year was ending, he estimated he could lose three staff members.
In addition to academic changes, Giaudrone also reached out to community groups that offer help for low-income students. Mobile health and dentistry clinics visit the campus. Between 40 and 80 families line up at school each week for food bank distributions.
Giaudrone hosts an end-of-the-year “rock star” breakfast for kids with good grades and their parents. Each year, more students qualify.
This year’s breakfast drew students including Maliyah Sek and her dad, Jason Moses. Moses said he looked at Giaudrone’s state test scores before his daughter enrolled. He liked the direction they were headed.
At the end of sixth grade, Maliyah had a 3.5 grade point average. Her dad thinks she can do better.
“I talk to her a lot about that,” Moses said. “She needs to do well now, to do well later. We are on top of it. The teachers know us. We talk by email and phone.”
Maliyah said she struggled with math in elementary school, but teachers at Giaudrone have helped her “get” it. She said her teachers make it easy to succeed by laying out school work “step-by-step.”
“We know what we have to do,” she said.