‘A’ for Awesome: Learning Alliance fetes our students’ success

Barbara Hammond, Ray Oglethorpe and Kim Oglethorpe PHOTO BY JOSHUA KODIS

At its annual invitational breakfast at the John’s Island Club, the Learning Alliance celebrated its accomplishments with the stakeholders who have consistently supported the mission of the nonprofit to have 90 percent of Indian River County children reading at grade level by the end of the third grade.

The gathering of like-minded philanthropists, community leaders and educators celebrated the strides made by students, and the public-private partnership that has fueled the district’s notable ascent in state rankings to seven from 31.

“Over the last four to five years, we have had unbelievably impressive results in this school district,” said Ray Oglethorpe, TLA board chairman.

“We have had this unique public-private partnership, where donors like you, investors like you, supporters like you and public education have come together to support this school system. But we’re not resting on our laurels. We are going for the Moon. We will continue trying to break new ground.”

He spoke of the launch of the Moonshot School, a model teaching school to “grow all other educators in our community,” and to determine best practices for accelerated learning and enhanced student outcomes. Vero Beach Elementary was selected for the program, one of the poorest and most racially diverse schools in the community.

During a panel discussion, educators from Vero Beach Elementary, the current Moonshot School, enthusiastically shared their insights, achievements, and the course forward.

School Superintendent David Moore said the Moonshot School will allow others, locally and across the nation, “to see how it’s done, problem solve and have conversations to take that skill back to their specific school. It’s accelerating the growth at Vero Beach.”

Highlighting the discussion was the recent report on the progress of students in the district. By leveraging donor funding to invest in innovative programs and resources, the county has improved student achievement and garnered statewide recognition for its educational excellence.

“We are the only district that improved to an A,” said Moore. “When you look at that improvement, we are outperforming all other counties in Florida. This is the most improved school district in the state. This A isn’t my A. It isn’t the district’s A. It’s the community’s A.”

Central to that success is the unique relationship forged through donor funding. Unlike many other districts, Indian River County has harnessed the power of philanthropy to augment public resources.

“You are the heroes of America. Because if we had you all everywhere – parents, teachers, coaches – America would be in a totally different place right now,” said Barbara Hammond, TLA CEO and co-founder.

“The community has totally embraced the Moonshot Goal from first to third grade. That means that you all have high expectations of us. We carry those high expectations forward in positive and productive ways. You help us fund what we find is most needed. None of us can do it alone, and we couldn’t do it without you.”

Commenting that Moore’s approach holds schools accountable for growing instructional excellence, Hammond added, “Teachers and principals know where kids are every day and know how to target instruction through coaching and intervention.”

“That annual investment in a teacher is a lifelong investment in the children of our community,” said Moore, citing the importance of engaging in deep dialogue and problem-solving, and recognizing the reality of our schools and the skillsets of our teachers.

To help meet those needs, teachers are being partnered with a coach to help them create lesson plans that address the needs of all children in the classroom.

For more information, visit thelearningalliance.org.

Photos by Joshua Kodis

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