By: Sophia Hernandez| WCTV Eyewitness News
July 18, 2019
STEINHATCHEE, Fla. (WCTV) – Three years ago, Steinhatchee School was on the verge of closing its doors. Last year, the school received an "F" grade due to low state testing scores and proficiency levels.
Thursday evening, teachers, parents and students celebrated their new "A" grade after a year of hard work and perseverance.
The cheers of 22 students in grades 3-5 could be heard from the inside of the limousine. The students are responsible for that change in letter rating, as they scored 3's, 4's, or 5's on their FSA
Garrett England, a third grader this past year, recounts what it was like, "It was really hard and we just had to give it our best shot."
When asked how he feels now, he says, "It happened."
The school was named an "F" school with a grade of 28, a title third grade teacher Melissa Harden deems unfit, "In my mind, in my heart, I knew we wasn't an F. I knew it was just a label and we had to get past that label."
In less than a year, the school became an A with a grade of 92.
Marion McCray was the former principal for three years.
Although many parents acclaim the transition to her, she shares, "There are not really any magic bullets, I thought there would be but there weren't."
Although no magic was involved, a lot of hard work was. McCray shares that the measures that were taken was an altered curriculum, which placed more of the focus on reading and writing. There were also position changes, and intense training for the teachers, which helped them figure out how to schedule and teach effectively.
Once this began to happen, Harden, who has been a teacher for 30 years and was a student at Steinhatchee herself, saw a change around December, "Everyday we came in and said this is our goal for the day. And this is how we are going to achieve this goal. And at the end of the day we reviewed and said did we achieve this goal, how do we feel about this goal. Do we need to set a higher goal for tomorrow do we need to step back and review?"
Jimmy Bray who was a math teacher at the school, and now the new principal, could not be happier, "They rose to the occasion, the results speak for themselves, We had 91% proficiency and 93% learning gains so I am so proud of those kids."
Janalea England, a parent at the school for over 10 years, also attended this school when she was yougner. England expresses that the school is at the heart of the community, and the schools rating is a relfection of the community. She is overjoyed, that now the score properly shows the talent of their communities children.
"I know we have to keep it up I know it's not over," England states, "it shows to me that if you stick with something and you believe enough it can happen and you just can't give up."
McCray says the road is hard, and they will have to be relentless, "We have to stay focused and we have a new course and we have to stay on it."
But on Thursday evening, the 22 students got to take a break from the books and get the reward promised-a ride in a limosioune.
Principal Bray shares that throughout the school year he would post photos of limos all across the walls, telling the students that if they worked hard and did their best, a ride around in the town would be the reward.
Needless to say, the ride to Fiddler's restaurant, Bray explains was well-deserved, "I can't overstate how much they deserve to be on this limo ride. It's something we talked about all year."
Steinhatchee School hopes to keep having fun while furthering to excel academically, into the new school year.
The school currently has 85 students enrolled grades Pre-K through 5th grade.