by Joyce Long
Photos by Jessica Limeberry, Lemongrass Photography, and Center Grove Schools
The Center Grove Education Foundation values collaboration. In fact, its executive director, Carla Johnson, depends upon it. Surrounded by an active 17-member board, she understands how vital working with the community and school personnel can be in achieving goals for Center Grove’s students.
“About two years ago we made a concerted effort to align our goals with those of the school corporation,” Johnson says.
Superintendent Rich Arkanoff, his administrative team and the Center Grove teachers’ association developed a comprehensive plan, the REACHProgram, featuring remediation, enrichment and achievement. Its goal was threefold and included hiring a family resource officer, developing CampREACH and launching the Middle School Alternative Academy.
Family Resource Officer Julie Stigall’s goal is to help chronically absent elementary students return to school. “You see the value of school attendance in this position because of all that the children need to learn.” Her day-to-day challenge is reaching parents to discover their circumstances and how she can help them get their children in school.
Funding Stigall’s position comes from a variety of sources, including a three-year grant from Johnson County’s Department of Child Services. She reports directly to the Johnson County Community Corrections juvenile program manager and, as of 2014, is responsible for developing pilot programs for middle school students in both Center Grove and Nineveh-Hensley Jackson school corporations.
“I love my job. I see it as helping. My reward is getting children back in school and seeing them succeed,” says Stigall.
Camp REACH, the second rung on the program’s ladder, involves instructional camps to enhance student achievement during Center Grove’s balanced calendar intersessions. Center Grove Curriculum Director Wendy Kruger will oversee Camp REACH, which will also offer courses for primary students wanting enrichment in art, technology and foreign language/culture.
These one-week camps will launch during fall break 2014 and spring break 2015. Remediation with personalized instruction will help students in kindergarten through third grade who are not reading at grade level and are struggling with mathematics. Kruger notes, “Students who fall behind in early grades have a more difficult time catching up with their peers. By providing remediation to younger students, we are helping students to be successful in their future courses.”
Kruger explains that providing enrichment opportunities for students on grade level will hopefully ignite passion for specific topics of learning such as science or art. “For the enrichment courses, teachers will have the opportunity to create learning experiences beyond the regular classroom experience.”
Middle School Alternative Academy, the third rung on REACH’s ladder, will be offered as an option to expulsion for students in grades six through eight. It will be modeled after the Center Grove Alternative Academy directed by Beth Bryant, who is currently developing this initiative with middle school principals Scott Johnson and Nora Hoover. While the high school’s academy, CGAA, actually began in spring 2006 and initially concentrated on freshmen and sophomores, it now focuses on preparing seniors for graduation.
“Two major components of our program include a variety of guest speakers who discuss careers, finances and overcoming difficulties in their lives, and community service, which led to our CARE Pantry,” says Terry Lain, CGAA assistant. “The academy gives our students the confidence they didn’t get in the traditional classroom. Here they are self-paced.”
Because personalized instruction costs more, the money raised from Center Grove Education Foundation’s annual Gala for the Grove is vital. This year’s fundraiser, “Reach for the Stars,” will take place Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Indiana Roof Ballroom, 140 W. Washington St. in Indianapolis. CGHS graduates from the Classes of 1964, 1989 and 2004 will be honored, with a discounted ticket of $80, which includes a commemorative program as well as group photos and a plaque to be displayed at the high school. With the alumni association now under CGEF’s umbrella, they are seeking sponsorships of $2,000 for each class that will be honored. To purchase a ticket for $100 or to sponsor a class, visit centergrovefoundation.org until Saturday, Feb. 15.
The 2014 Gala Executive Committee, consisting of second-year chairperson Janet Hubler, assistant chairpersons Kate Rhoten and Darlene Ingalls, and adviser Erin Smith, began planning soon after last year’s gala. “Last year Janet transformed it into a really fun evening to celebrate Center Grove and its schools,” says Johnson. For next year’s gala, Hubler will move into the advisory role as Rhoten and Ingalls assume leadership.
For Johnson, consistent collaboration develops strong programming. For instance, the idea for Camp REACH’s enrichment segment was validated when a parent asked about the offerings for students who “get up every morning, go to school and get good grades.” Another example came from the business community, specifically Carter Lumber, which helped underwrite a classroom construction project that expanded into students helping build a Habitat for Humanity house.
While Johnson’s background is in marketing and public relations, she has learned much about the principles and techniques of fundraising since she was hired in October 2012. Classes from the IU School of Philanthropy, along with cultivating relationships within Johnson County, have been beneficial. “One of the things I find important is to know our community and be known by them,” Johnson says.
Helping students succeed depends upon that kind of collaboration.
Joyce Long, Greenwood Middle School language arts teacher from 1992-2000, has called Center Grove home for the past 25 years. Currently Joyce works as the communications coordinator for Center for Global Impact and is passionate about engaging people to empower the poor.