Sabal Palm Principal Shares Experience With Lawmakers On Turning Around Failing Schools

Feb 15, 2017

The playgrounds at Sabal Palm Elementary School.
Credit Lynn Hatter / WFSU News

Leon County’s Sabal Palm Elementary School is one of a handful statewide that’s been able to boost its school grade in recent years. Wednesday the school’s principal discussed before a Senate education committee how the school made the jump.

Principal Anisha Robinson says Sabal Palm has formed partnerships with local businesses and churches, and updated the school to make it more attractive to children and parents. And if students are absent from school, Robinson says teachers will go find them.

“We will go to the house and pick up the students. We will say ‘you haven’t been here in three days’. Our teachers are mandated to find out why, and if they say, 'I can't find anyone, the phone numbers aren't working,' we jump in cars and knock on doors. And our parents know we will show up. I tell them, ‘you get them to us, we’ll take care of them'.” 

The school has partnered with Florida A&M University, Florida State University and Tallahassee Community College. And Robinson along with TCC's athletics department is introducing a new mentorship program. TCC athletes are required to mentor kids at Sabal Palm for an hour each week.

"Kids at our school thrive on competition," she says, "So we want to feed their interest and let them know there are other people rooting for you, people who want the best for you.”

The school has been able to move from an “D” grade to a “C” in recent years despite having a high number of homeless students. It also has new students who are refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and teachers are working on helping them learn English. Robinson’s comments come Florida lawmakers are looking into new ways to help students do better in schools.