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Jon Cerny, Principal, Bancroft-Rosalie Elementary School – Bancroft, NE

2015 Bell awardee Jon CernyLocated on the edge of the Omaha Indian Reservation, Bancroft-Rosalie Elementary School draws a diverse student body from the reservation and nearby school districts. Many students enter with significant academic gaps and poverty is a common feature of this rural area. Principal Dr. Jon Cerny has met these challenges through relentless creativity and innovation.

Over his 22 years of leadership, Dr. Cerny has garnered grants and community support to introduce strong national school improvement programs such as Reading First, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), and Response to Intervention (RTI), as well as a host of local initiatives. For example, Dr. Cerny obtained grants to purchase and renovate an empty building in town that provides space for a preschool classroom for three-year-olds and an afterschool program that offers students an additional 45 minutes of academic time, a snack, and opportunities for socializing, playing, and enrichment activities.

Dr. Cerny contracted with the National Institute For Direct Instruction as an external consultant to ensure that the core reading and math programs were implemented with fidelity. Teachers learned how to implement screening, diagnostic, progress-monitoring, and outcome assessments, and they meet weekly with the reading coach and Dr. Cerny to ensure strong instructional practices and appropriate allocation of resources. This commitment to using student data has made Bancroft-Rosalie one of eight Nebraska schools piloting the state’s Ed-Fi Data Dashboard. Regular review of RTI and PBIS data also ensure that students receive both social-emotional and academic supports tailored to their needs.

Bancroft-Rosalie uses a Walk To Learn model for reading, math, language, and spelling instruction; students are taught according to their mastery of material in flexible groups. Online programs serve as practice platforms and math and reading interventions. Bancroft-Rosalie is unique in Nebraska in using a web-based digital program in a blended approach to teaching science. Students use classroom iPads to access content, conduct experiments, and complete written assignments.

Dr. Cerny takes student success personally. Beyond knowing each student by name, he is aware of students’ performance on state assessments and regularly discusses individual results with them. He is a daily presence in the school cafeteria, and during exam preparation, he listens as students read the tests aloud, and later rewards students who have made improvements or have scored well on the assessments.

In 2014, Bancroft-Rosalie students attended 1207 hours of school, a figure well above the minimum requirement of 1032 hours. In order to maximize academic learning time, Dr. Cerny has mandated on-time class beginnings and endings and scheduled all activities, assemblies, and school pictures outside of the academic day.

Dr. Cerny has strengthened home-school-community relationships through social media and attendance at numerous school and community events. He has partnered with families, social services, medical services, day care services, juvenile justice, Omaha tribal authorities, and community recreation programs to create a wraparound structure that supports students and helps them succeed. The school nurse works closely with parents, students, and staff to meet students’ health and nutritional needs, including eye exams and eyeglasses. Occasionally staff members pay $5 for the privilege of wearing jeans to school; the proceeds buy clothing and personal care items for students.

His commitment extends beyond the school. When a shortage of available EMTs during school hours became evident, Dr. Cerny recruited another teacher and both received EMT certification; he is now the Rescue Training officer. His community spirit is further evidenced by his service to the John G. Neihardt Historic Site, Bancroft’s major tourist attraction, and his ongoing invovlement in the Cuming County Visitors Bureau and the Cuming County Economic Development Board of Directors. In 2013 he was named Outstanding Administrator by the Nebraska Rural Community Schools Association.