Congratulations! We’re excited that your school has been chosen for a 2017 Community School Award for Excellence. Tell us about your community school.

Pearl-Cohn is honored to be recognized by the Coalition for the 2017 Community School Award of Excellence. We proudly share this award with our 36 (and growing) community partnerships that lend their time, services, resources, and funds to provide mentoring, mental health services, grief support, and many other supports. We are beginning our sixth year as a community school as well as our sixth year in our turn-around efforts. We have grown from the lowest performing high school to one of the top four high schools in the district, exceeding our predicted growth outcomes in all content areas. We attribute this success to our strength as a community and our commitment to serving the whole child and whole family.

Pearl-Cohn achieved a school-wide growth score of 5, which translates to 2 years of student growth in a single school year on the Tennessee Value Added Assessment System. How has the community school strategy allowed Pearl-Cohn to achieve such great results?

As a community school we focus our efforts in two areas, Academic Press and Personalization. Academic Press is all things teaching and learning and Personalization is serving the whole child and whole family. Our strategy around our Personalization work is to support teachers by removing learning barriers for our students. We do this by using a Support and Intervention Referral system that allows teachers to refer any needs or concerns they find that are inhibiting the students’ ability to be an engaged in learning. By meeting students' basic needs and connecting them and their families to resources, students feel safer emotionally, socially, and physically, resulting in higher academic achievement. Teachers are able to focus on learning and maximizing instruction time and students are more prepared for the classroom and engaged in learning.

Pearl-Cohn is the only entertainment high school in the nation, partnering with many businesses to provide students with internships or mentors in Nashville’s rich entertainment industry. How have you maximized these partnerships to meet the needs of your students?

Under the MNPS Academies of Nashville structure Pearl-Cohn has more than 26 business partners and an advisory board that meets monthly and functions as a consistent space for collaboration between the school’s Career and Technological Education teachers and the entertainment industry partners in order to meet the needs and interests of our students. Our business partners provide industry specific field trips, job shadowing, and internship opportunities for students in all grades and pathways. Partners also provide externships for teachers during the summer in order to promote an ever-growing knowledge of how to integrate the entertainment theme into general education classroom instruction.

You said that your students “feel comfortable coming forth with their needs and concerns.” How has your school created a climate and culture where students know they can turn to school staff for help?

All of the adults in our building serve as a mentor in some capacity for students. We have a daily advisory called “The Nest,” where students meet in small groups and participate in a school-wide SEL curriculum, which includes Mindfulness meditation activities, Culture Intensive days to build a sense of community as a school, and we have a Personalization Team that meets regularly to discuss students that have received referrals. This is only a few of the many supports we have in place to provide students with a feeling of safety, value, and community. I would mention again, we are in our 6th year as a community school and we did not get to the place we are overnight nor do we think our work is done. However, we are at a place where if a student is new to our school or possibly not in a place that they themselves can come to an adult with an issue or concern, it is inevitable that their peers will advocate for one another or inform an adult that they trust in order for the need to get met.

Why do you do what you do?

As a former classroom teacher of six years, I experienced first-hand the struggle of educating students with multiple learning barriers, having limited access to resources for families, and spending countless hours searching for ways to extend learning beyond the classroom and make real-world connections. As a Coordinator I am able to support students, teachers, and families, and I find it very rewarding to serve as a connecter between them and the community. I believe in order to raise well-rounded citizens we must take a holistic approach to educating.

Can you tell me a story about a student, family or community that you directly impacted as a coordinator?

This April we hosted our 2nd Annual Women’s Health Summit. This was the vision of a Pearl-Cohn parent to have a day of education, awareness, and pampering for the families of Pearl-Cohn. We gathered partners from the medical students at the local colleges and universities, health department, Sexual Assault Center, 100 Black Women, Family and Children’s Services, massage schools, and many more organizations, to host workshops and health screenings for women. This day is filled with lots of informative and fun activities; gift baskets are given away along with free massages and manicures, and a catered luncheon is provided for participants. We market this event to the entire community and always are amazed at how women find out how much they learn. It is events like these that I enjoy coordinating most as they reach so many in the community, begin with the idea of a parent, and leave everyone feeling empowered.

Read more about Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School.

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