Teaching the Culture of Caring
by Courtney Baum
February 1, 2013
A visitor walking into Simpson Elementary immediately can tell something is different about this school. The trophy case is filled to capacity; but instead of awards and accolades, you find student artwork on proud display. A colorful mural features seven school norms detailing characteristics any parent would be glad for their child to embody. And from the receptionist to the line of first graders winding down the hall, everyone exudes an air of “happy to be here.” Across a 20 year history, Simpson Elementary has become a hallmark of the Norcross Cluster. Inside Gwinnett sat down with Principal Bron Gayna Schmit to find out what it takes to build a school that is so embraced by students, parents and the Peachtree Corners community.
Focus on the School Family
With a building tucked in among the neighborhoods and walking paths frequented by Peachtree Corners families, Simpson Elementary naturally grew into the fabric of the community. Principal Schmit reflected, “Simpson was built upon a foundation of strong community support, a committed staff and involved families. Over the years we’ve continued to foster the structure of a school family that respects, encourages and supports one another, adults and children together.”
The school maintains a laser focus on academics balanced with an emphasis on training each child to be a participating member of the community. On this front, Principal Schmit credits the Simpson Norms, a code of behavior that has served as the school’s guiding principles from the start. “Our staff strives to model the behaviors we expect from the students. We’ve created a longstanding culture of support, encouragement and camaraderie that naturally filters down to the children,” shares Principal Schmit, “That sets the tone and keeps our priorities centered on the children and their achievements.” Principal Schmit acknowledges that teachers are key members of the school family, “Simpson is blessed with a tremendously talented staff that shares an innate joy in wanting to teach and positively impact children’s lives. Adding that to the school’s strong culture creates a powerful combination.”
100 Ways of Giving Back
The culture of caring at Simpson extends to a continuous focus on supporting the Peachtree Corners and Norcross community. The Simpson PTA sponsors several student drives to help the Norcross Cooperative Ministry, works on year-round recycling initiatives and partners with Better World Books. Rachelle Kuramoto, co-president of the Simpson Elementary School PTA, shares, “Our goal is to foster a strong spirit of community involvement in the hearts of all Simpson students and work together to make a deep and positive impact on the community where we all live.” At different times throughout the year, the students collect canned food, coats, car seats and toys for the Norcross Cooperative Ministry. To celebrate the 100th day of school the PTA sponsors “100 Ways of Giving,” a drive challenging each grade level to collect hundreds of personal care items for the Co-op. The Simpson Student Council also raises funds for the community and Simpson participates annually in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life and the United Way.
A Benchmark Raised Twenty Years Higher
In addition to the cohesive spirit and charitable efforts that define Simpson Elementary, it is also known for being surrounded by a permanent expectation of academic excellence. Simpson Elementary students continued to earn their moniker of “Superstars” when the school was awarded the 2012 National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence Award from the United States Department of Education. Simpson was one of two elementary schools in Georgia to receive the award given to close to 230 schools nationally. The State Department of Education selects award winners from the public and private schools that are ranked among the highest performing schools in both reading and mathematics as measured by state or nationally normed assessment. In addition to the Blue Ribbon Award, Simpson Elementary has, since 2005, consecutively earned the State of Georgia’s highest award, the Platinum Award for Excellence in Achievement and was a 2010 Georgia School of Excellence.
Given the history of achievement, we explored how the staff and students stay motivated to continue their outstanding record. “In 1993, Simpson opened with high expectations for excellence. Each year we focus on exceeding the achievements of the prior year,” Principal Schmit explained, “Meeting our goals and being recognized for our successes generates a huge level of excitement at Simpson. At the same time we stay very committed to maintaining our focus on teaching and learning. Until we believe all students are performing at their maximum potential, there is still room for growth.” She further reflected, “We have to keep a constant eye on the ball, and the ball is defined as every child working consistently at his or her highest potential, not just by receiving a plaque or trophy.”
Building A Community of Caring
Our public schools and Peachtree Corners have a symbiotic relationship that is essential to the community’s success. Successful schools impact housing values, the tenor of the community and most importantly, the skill level of the workforce. Norcross schools have not been immune to the budget challenges of recent years. When asked how the community could help support Simpson Elementary, Principal Schmit focused on the Norcross Cluster Schools Partnership, a foundation with a mission to enhance all ten schools in the Norcross Cluster. Simpson also has several business partners and business sponsorships available. “Simpson is committed to serving the children in our community; we are so proud of everyone’s successes,” Principal Schmit concluded, “It is critical to view the success of the Norcross Cluster schools holistically and treat the education of all the children in the cluster as an investment in the community’s future.”
Parents, community leaders raise $32,000 to replace equipment in Gwinnett County school.
Thursday, June 1, 2017
By Eric Stirgus - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Simpson Elementary School’s PTA, parents and business leaders in the Peachtree Corners area raised about $32,000 to replace its classroom smartboards.
The fundraising campaign focused on upgrading the school’s 45 Mimio technology interactive whiteboards. The smartboards are currently being installed across the school and will be in place for the opening of the 2017-18 school year in August.
“We feel these tools give our teachers the ability to expand their daily lessons with increased content and deeper context that amplifies the relevance of the curriculum for our students,” principal Bron Gayna Schmit said in a statement.
The capital campaign spanned the 2016-2017 school year as a centerpiece of PTA fundraising efforts.
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