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How a principal and community is improving a Central Florida school’s failing grade

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — A local principal said he’s turned around his school’s failing grade, and it’s all thanks to the community.

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Orange Center Elementary had a “D” grade from the state when he arrived, and was struggling with challenges from COVID-19 and a huge teacher turnover. But Principal Fredrick Brooks came up with a plan to address the issues, and now the school is thriving.

Brooks made sure each child felt at home and supported before and after they left the school, and the whole community participated in making sure students got the best support possible.

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Brooks said he made frequent calls home to see how families were doing and what they needed personally, then giving students a mentor with whomever they connected to on campus, from custodians to counselors.

He said many students are from single-parent, working homes, so face-to-face support can be limited.

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“This is only part of a child’s foundation, so bringing that parent along the journey is critical,” Brooks said. “We felt like if we could help a parent to strengthen that home situation, the context at home that ultimately is going to benefit students as well.”

Brooks said he’s working toward that “A” grade now, but that it’s not about the grade, it’s about what it represents — it shows every child is getting the love and support they need from their community.

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Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.