Partnership helps Madison Cross Roads Elementary School with Supplies

By Pat Ammons, The Huntsville Times  The Huntsville Times on November 02, 2009

Ken with Supplies

Glenn Baeske/The Huntsville Times Ken Rivenbark of the Rivernbark & Roper Educational Partnership shows donated art supplies to Madison Cross Roads Elementary fifth-graders, Amy Ratley, Patrick McDaniel and Jasmine Johnson.

HUNTSVILLE, AL — When teachers learned that deep cuts to this year’s education budget would mean they would get no money for professional development or classroom supplies, it was demoralizing.

“It takes the breath out of you,” said Monica Davis, a fifth-grade teacher at Madison Cross Roads Elementary School.

The teachers at the school, however, got a boost at last week’s faculty meeting: stacks of books, videos, art supplies and trinkets they can use for incentives for students to do their best work.

“This year, we were thinking we would not get all the supplies we needed,” said a grateful Mitzi Dennis, principal at the school.

The impressive collection of goodies was the result of a collaborative effort to help the Title 1 school in the northwest part of Madison County.

The Huntsville Museum of Art Foundation Board of Directors donated the art supplies; Randolph School held a drive to collect books for the elementary school classrooms and a parent resource room; and the trinkets came from Roper’s Flowers, which closed Friday after seven decades in business.

“If everybody does a little, we can do a lot,” said Ken Rivenbark, a partner in the Rivenbark & Roper Educational Partnership, a community outreach program funded by Rivenbark & Roper Antiques of Huntsville.

The partnership helped sponsor a writing workshop Rivenbark, a former teacher and now education consultant, conducted last year for fourth- and fifth-grade teachers at four Madison County schools, including Madison Cross Roads.

That workshop included Monica Davis, who has become an enthusiastic proponent of Rivenbark’s method of teaching writing by using art work to inspire the children.

The school had an 11-point jump in its fifth-grade writing assessment score, increasing from 61 percent proficiency in 2008 to 72 percent in the spring of 2009.

To keep that momentum going, Rivenbark is volunteering as the school’s resident writing consultant this year. He did a training session with all the teachers before school began and visits the school every couple of weeks to work with teachers on their writing strategies.

He also brought together the partnership to help the school. That will also include Huntsville High School’s drama department, who will perform “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” for the students.

Dr. Rita Cantrell, the director of elementary education for Madison County Schools, was on hand for the presentation to the teachers and applauded the help the partnership has given Madison Cross Roads.

“Teachers can teach the curriculum, but we want more than that for the children,” she said. “We need mothers and dads and business people to take these seeds we have and help them grow.”