Blue Ribbon Network School Sets Sight on Community Outreach



Mobile, AL - This summer, Alba Middle School focused on community outreach through a partnership with two local churches. During four days in July, Alba Middle School became the home of a community eye clinic where more than 500 eye exams were made and 340 prescription eye glasses were provided to those in need.

During this 4-day event, Alba Middle opened its doors to First Baptist Bayou La Batre and Ridgecrest Baptist Church for the eye glass clinic.  The church pastors wrote, "We felt welcomed from the time we set foot on [the] campus... The partnership with Alba Middle and our community was positive on every level.  I recall many of our patients in the clinic commenting on how nice it was to be back on campus, many of these patients graduated from Alba years ago."

"Any amount of success in education and ministry requires engaging the community through healthy relationships."

CRITICAL QUESTION:  Is YOUR school opening its doors to the community?

Important Gathering about Race: The 2017 Moving Forward Together National Summit






  By Isaiah Nelson
  Dorman High School
  Roebuck, SC



 The 2017 Moving Forward Together Summit Team is planning an outstanding Summit for June 12-13, to convene at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. The purpose of the Summit is to improve race relations among African-American, Latino and other communities of color with schools, law enforcement, religious institutions and other organizations designed to protect, serve, and nurture all people.

Last year several students and I from Spartanburg County had the unique opportunity to attend the Summit.  The Summit was held as a result of the incident that took place at Spring Valley High School where a black female student was thrown across the classroom by a white School Resource Officer.  The Summit addressed many racial issues including how to deal with the police.  Not only were students there to learn, but police officers, school people, religious leaders and lawmakers were in attendance  to learn how we can better get along with each other in our day-to-day interactions.

Here’s what some of my peers are saying about last year’s Summit:

William W., student at Boiling Springs High School:  "In Detective McFadden's session I learned to do what the officer says in order to avoid a physical confrontation.  This is important for me to know as a young black male."

Elijah N., student at Dorman Freshman Campus: "Attending the Summit helped me understand how to appropriately deal with police."

Julius B., student at Chapman High School:  "I learned how to respectfully interact with law enforcement."

Personally I've learned how to ask the police, if I am approached, if I am being detained or arrested.  Basically, follow their instructions is the right thing to do.  This will help in most circumstances.  Unfortunately on September 4, 2014, Levar Jones was shot while complying with a police officer. This is what the newspaper reports: “As he exited his vehicle, State Trooper Sean Groubert pulled up, got out his patrol car and requested Levar’s license. He was NOT pulled over by the officer so he displayed no defensiveness. He simply complied. Holding keys or a cell phone in his left hand, he checked his empty back pocket with a light tap. With the fluid motion of instinctive deduction, he then turned into the car to retrieve his wallet. While Levar leaned in, Officer Groubert screamed, “GET OUT THE CAR” twice, with his gun drawn. Levar quickly complied (again) and pivoted in awkward shock while restraining his body from sudden movement. That’s when Officer Groubert fired four shots.”

I would like to see more students, from difference races, attend this year's conference, more police, more school people and more religious leaders.  A better understanding may help us avoid the Levar Jones, Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, the Dallas police killings, the Charleston Nine and other senseless violence based on racial hatred. Visit,, for more information.

I am Isaiah Nelson a Junior at Dorman High School,

Do They Want Me To Win?

by Katie Morgan
February 7, 2017 @BRSOE

 Reframed, the question is, “Do WE want THEM to win?”

 I had the pleasure of meeting with Pickens County (SC) school superintendent Dr. Danny Merck last month.  During our meeting, we discussed his session on restorative practices for our upcoming event, Moving Forward Together: A National Summit on Schools, Communities and Law Enforcement.  Dr. Merck has served as superintendent of the district for the last three years and has been instilling a philosophy of restorative practices into both student and staff communities with great results.

He told me that he wanted to create a culture where both students and staff could overcome their mistakes, learn lessons, and move on.  I asked him how he had initiated that change.  Had he changed his discipline policies? Had he invested in restorative justice training?  He answered “no” to both of those questions.

 To the policy question, he replied that policy change wasn’t necessary.  You have to respect the policies and respect the data, he said, but the key is to frame both with a growth mindset and a restorative philosophy.  He has given his principals the latitude to do that.

 To the question about training, he replied that creating the right culture trumps training on strategies every day. 

Even with Dr. Merck’s commitment to restorative practices, he does not go easy on corrective discipline.  He still has critical conversations with both students and staff, but they are infused with 100% respect and 100% honesty. 

Corrective discipline takes place in an environment where the answer to the question, “Do they want me to win?” is a resounding “YES!”

Dr. Danny Merck
Pickens County School District, SC 





A Pencil... a Phone Call... and a Mom's Tears



    by Danny Steele
    Principal of the Year, AL, 2016

It was a phone call that I will not soon forget.

This year I set a goal of making 100 positive phone calls home by the 100th day of school. I asked my teachers to let me know when they had a student they wanted to brag on. Last week, a teacher emailed me about a student she was proud of. This particular student was always coming to class unprepared. The teacher and student had a "heart to heart" conversation,  READ MORE

Know Your Starting Point


At this time of year, we set forth with resolve to make improvements in our lives. Whether it's health and fitness, financial security, or personal growth, the first step in any improvement process is to document your starting point. Only after you know your starting point can you celebrate the steps toward your goal. 



What I learned from my students last week

I guess they are more like reminder lessons than brand new lessons, but through my students' eyes it became clear that these values are more important than ever. As educators and learners, we are always moving, connecting, sharing, and experiencing the world around us thanks to this Renaissance of innovation, thanks to this digital age. It is important to stay grounded, even when we are feeling like we are in a whirlwind of progress. Here are the clear focused reminders from my students of the Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence Leadership Institute, which occurred in Walt Disney World last week.

Teaching Student Leadership through Disney Program (2)

IRMO, SC (WIS) - A program offered through Walt Disney World teaches kids how to become future leaders while they're riding Pirates of the Caribbean or Space Mountain.

Kids from throughout the Midlands and throughout the world are invited to participate in the BOLT program, or Building Leaders for Tomorrow. It's offered through Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence.

Teen Tantrums: Ten Ways to Ensure Anger Doesn't Rule Your House

Parents are a key component in creating a culture of excellence in your school. Does your school offer supporting tips for parents? Here is an excellent blog from Dr. Dave Walsh, one of the world's leading authorities on children, teens, parenting, family life, and the impact of technology on children's health and development.

Consider other ways you can provide tips and resources to some of your key stakeholders - the parents of your students.

George W. Bush Visits Our National Conference

As you know, the Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence organizes amazing best practices events for educators at the happiest place on earth, Walt Disney World, twice a year. 

But what would a "happy place" be without some fun? To give you a feel of how fun our events can be, we'd like you to see this video in which George W. Bush himself visited one of our Blue Ribbon events at Disney World, Orlando as one of our keynote speakers. 

Some of you were there to experience this hilarious appearance first hand. It was most certainly one of the most memorable moments in Blue Ribbon history. If you haven't seen it yet, well, you're up for a treat. Enjoy!

How technology can promote student engagement

Implementing 1:1 in your elementary school? Looking for ways to integrate technology in the elementary classroom? Learn from Faith Plunkett of Monte Sano Elementary in Huntville, Alabama. Faith shared her techniques and resources last December at the Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence National Educational Conference at Walt Disney World Florida where Monte Sano Elementary Schools was recognized as a Blue Ribbon Lighthouse school committed to educational excellence.

Follow Faith on her blog

Be a Beacon! The Art of Teaching

Are you a beacon of learning for your students? Showing them the way and leading them to new adventures? Giving them the confidence to explore unknown waters? I have always thought "just tell me what standards you want me to teach and give me the freedom to find a way to make it unforgettable to students." This is what lead me to research in brain-based learning and finding strategies that reach all students.

"When you go fishing, do you use bait that you like, or bait the fish like?" Teachers should teach with strategies that best facilitate children's learning. I had the good fortune of meeting Marcia Tate, a renown brain-based educator, who has identified 20 teaching strategies that she calls Tate's 20. Together, we collaborated to write a book called "Science Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites". It provides science lessons incorporating each of the 20 strategies. Having taught for 40 years, I can tell you that these lessons can be unforgettable to students.

Let's Talk Trash

Learning is so much more fun when you can get your hands dirty. And what better way than working with trash! Among other activities, this year's Share Fair STEAMosphere, sponsored by the Morgridge Family Foundation and hosted by the USC College of Education and River Bluff High School in Columbia, SC, was an opportunity for the public to not only view art but to experience it as well. Representing the Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities, I was enlisted to create a temporary interactive art installation. Looking for an evocative way to make a powerful statement about consumerism in my artwork, I began using post-consumer materials as the medium for my paintings. Through art, I found an opportunity to begin a dialogue about art and the environment and to encourage others to ask questions- and come up with their own answers. For this installation, I used these same materials.

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