Education Champions: Sherman Boys & Girls Club lifts scores, attendance, prideWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s Note: Toledo Free Press, United Way of Greater Toledo and 13abc’s “Bridges” with Doni Miller are profiling 12 education initiative programs in Northwest Ohio. This is the fourth story in the series.
Attendance, test scores and “Sherman pride” are all on the rise at a North Toledo elementary school thanks in part to a unique partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Toledo (BGCT).
BGCT’s North Toledo Club (NTC), located inside Sherman Elementary, is one of only a few Boys & Girls Club programs in the nation fully integrated within a school, said BGCT executive director Dave Wehrmeister.
Club space was built into the design of the new school building, which opened in August 2008, resulting in the first partnership of its kind in Ohio, Wehrmeister said.
“It was something our board had been looking for, but couldn’t find the right vehicle until TPS and Building for Success came along,” Wehrmeister said. “It was great timing and made good perfect sense, business sense, to make this model work.”
Based on the success at Sherman, plans are set for BGCT’s South Toledo Club to relocate into the new Marshall Elementary building, currently under construction, Wehrmeister said.
Sherman principal Anthony Bronaugh said at first he didn’t understand the full scope of what such an integration would look like, but now he can’t imagine his school without it.
“It’s a huge asset,” Bronaugh said. “As the first ever in Ohio, the pressure is there to make sure it works, to make sure we are academically achieving, to make sure discipline stays down. In this case, all those things have happened.”
Sherman improved in nine of 11 academic indicators its first year, progressing from academic emergency to academic watch, Wehrmeister said. It’s a change Bronaugh attributes to many factors, including the close collaboration between Sherman teachers and NTC staff.
“It’s a wonderful extension for us,” Bronaugh said.
Students can come to the club after school without leaving the building, making excuses about forgetting homework moot, said NTC unit director Kelly Duling, one of two full-time staff members.
The club, which also employs nine part-time staff members, utilizes 14,655 square feet at Sherman. That includes 2,510 square feet of club space, including a game room and offices, and 12,145 square feet of shared school space, including the art room, media center, library, cafeteria and gym.
Some Sherman teachers were apprehensive at first about sharing the school, but most were on board quickly, Wehrmeister said.
“They see the impact we’re having on the school and all the additional resources we’re bringing to that building,” Wehrmeister said. “It’s worked remarkably well.”
Kimberly Schroeder, a kindergarten teacher at Sherman who also works part time at NTC, said she sees firsthand the difference in students.
“Several students, the very first year, you’re like ‘Oh my goodness, they’re like a time bomb,’ but you can’t do that here,” Schroeder said. “They calm down, get along with others, deal with anger issues and that carries over into the school day.”
A rule that students who miss school cannot come to the club has helped dramatically improve attendance, which averaged 95 percent last year, Bronaugh said.
Test scores have also been on the rise, although NTC cannot claim sole responsibility, Wehrmeister said.
“It’s the teachers, administrators, Boys & Girls Club staff, the social-emotional learning programs, all coming together to achieve the impact,” Wehrmeister said.
Not only measureable indicators, but intangible factors as well have improved, such as a more positive outlook at the school, Wehrmeister said.
The positivity has extended to the community, Bronaugh said.
“Five or six years ago people would have thought of Sherman as a dangerous area, and rightly so, but our kids aren’t necessarily a part of the environment they come from,” Bronaugh said. “We have been able to make the community a reflection of the school instead of the school being a reflection of the community.”
The club operates after school Monday through Friday until 7:30 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. over the summer and during school breaks.
Bronaugh said working parents like knowing their children are safe and others have said the club saves them money on groceries by serving dinner.
“We change lives each and every night at Boys & Girls Club, but we never know how or when that’s happening or what kind of impact we’re having on a family,” Wehrmeister said.
NTC, one of four club locations in Toledo, has about 700 registered members, Duling said. An average of 147 students per day attended the club during the 2009-10 school year, with a daily average of 86 during the summer, Wehrmeister said.
Membership is free to Sherman students and about 75 percent of students attend regularly, Bronaugh said. The club is open to any North Toledo student aged 7 to 12 for $3 per year.
BGCT is funded through private donations, the United Way, endowments and government grants.
Bronaugh said Sherman still has a long way to go, but is on the right path.
“When people think of successful schools, Sherman will come to mind and that’s our goal,” Bronaugh said.
For more information, visit www.bgctoledo.org.