District Gets Serious With Incentives

East Jasper School District has just over 1,200 students and is working to recover from lagging test scores.

Earlier in the school year, the district's only high school, Heidelberg High, was listed one of the state's 17 lowest performing schools. That was because of its rating of 1 on state testing. The district's elementary school fared not much better with a rating of 2.

However, district officials say thanks to teamwork, slowly but surely things are looking up. In fact, the latest results show that students grades were up by 57-percent this past fall, compared to a year ago at the same time.

"We've been getting a lot of support and not just verbal support," said superintendent Dr. Montrell Greene. "We've been getting financial support and having people who are willing to give of their time and means."

Now in his first year with the district, Greene says various groups from the community have already committed between $3,000 to $5,000 for the district. This includes funds, which are being used to award teachers whose students show significant strides.

Eleventh grade history teacher Gloria Dantzler was one of those awarded a prize.

"That's a great incentive to me because if you get an award that makes you want to do more," Dantzler said.

Other new programs in place include those encouraging students to read, such as the Principal's Book of the Month initiative.

Earlier in the year, someone from the community also dressed up as Santa Claus and handed out gift-wrapped books to students for another reading initiative. Students who made all A's were granted a wish of their choice. Some students opted for a free ride in a limo with dinner, all courtesy of the district and community at large.

District officials say there is still more to come.

"We're not going to try to put any quick fixes in for a short term," said Dr. Greene. "We're going to try to make some tough decisions and see what we need to do for children for the long haul."

The next state testing period is in March.