Only a few years ago, South Crowley Elementary School was a failing school with a culture of anxiety and exclusion. Staff had little belief that students could perform at high levels; morale among faculty and parents was low. Located in a high poverty, high crime area, many students were coping with the additional hardships of losing family members to violent crime or incarceration.
When Irma Duplechain Trosclair accepted the appointment at South Crowley in 2012, she’d already led another Louisiana school to National Blue Ribbon School status and had served as High Performing-High Poverty Coach/Mentor for the Louisiana Department of Education in 2010 and 2011. She came to South Crowley with a mission and the knowledge and skills to implement it. During the first two years of her tenure, South Crowley’s School Performance Score increased from 73.3 to 99.0%. Students exceeded their growth targets and achievement gaps have been substantially narrowed or eliminated.
Ms. Trosclair’s first priority was addressing and changing the school’s culture and climate, starting with the most basic issue: the physical space. She spent hours cleaning, painting, and organizing the school to make it a welcoming place for students, families, and staff.
Just as she systematically addressed the building’s needs, Ms. Trosclair began the difficult job of developing a staff that shared her vision and drive and was capable of delivering high quality instruction. She spent hours in classrooms, monitoring teaching and learning, and made as many resources as necessary available to help teachers who were struggling.
For students, Ms. Trosclair implemented a schoolwide discipline plan that provided regular feedback to parents and an efficient method of documentation for teachers. Students who were formerly referred to as behavior problems began to flourish with fair and consistent discipline and clearly stated rewards and consequences. Ms. Trosclair took the time to learn about each student to address their unique needs.
By instituting a culture of no excuses for students and staff, Ms. Trosclair communicated the importance of the work the school performs and the impact it has on the future of each child. She encouraged teachers and staff to become leaders and to develop into a community of educators. Teacher confidence grew, changing the environment into one of support and effective classroom instruction. Students and families who felt disconnected from the school began to take pride in themselves, their accomplishments, and the school itself.
Academically, Ms. Trosclair turned staff attention to student data to understand and address areas of concern. She used results from standardized tests and schoolwide benchmark scores in reading and math to assess overall academic needs. The day was reconfigured to ensure “bell to bell” instructional time so no minute was wasted. Ms. Trosclair also created an intervention program that provided skills-based assistance to struggling students. She made homework support and afterschool tutoring available. School supplies are given to all students, and local businesses and organizations donate time and materials. The school even received a washer and a dryer so that students could have clean uniforms as necessary.
Finally, Ms. Trosclair assembled a leadership team consisting of the school counselor, instructional assistant, interventionist, disciplinarian, librarian, and other staff and/or parent representatives as needed. The team meets weekly to discuss issues and concerns. Leadership team members have an open-door philosophy: teachers, students, and parents feel comfortable asking questions, giving input, or requesting support.
Under Ms. Trosclair’s leadership, South Crowley has succeeded, despite the odds, to become a school where instruction is strategic, teachers have the resources and support needed to be effective in the classroom, and students are empowered to take responsibility for their education and their future.