Harmony Grove Cardinals

Staff at Westbrook Elementary School are celebrating recent successes while still working to get even better. 

The school recently received an A rating from the Arkansas Department of Education. Principal Meghann Donaldson called the rating "very exciting for us as a staff and as a family."

"This is something we have worked really diligently toward and we were excited to be recognized in that way," she said. 

On schooldigger.com, the school also recently was ranked 45th of 488 Arkansas elementary schools. In 2015, Westbrook Elementary School was ranked 308th. 

Westbrook Elementary School is one of only two Saline County elementary schools in the top 50 schools listed. 

Based on their new ranking, Donaldson said the school should receive reward money from the state. 

Staff at the school say they have always done good work and they are happy to be recognized. 

Diane Oldfield, who has taught at the school for 11 years, said the accolades are "a validation the community can see."

"We're (teachers) so focused on the growth and the process of getting better that we don't stop and look at the result maybe as often as we should," Oldfield said. 

Members of the staff said teachers at the school are a mix of newer and more experienced teachers. They all like to try new things and change if something isn't working. 

"We're constantly looking for how to improve," Oldfield said. 

Third grade teacher Kim Nichols, who has worked at the school for 25 years, agreed. 

"We're constantly searching for how to be better teachers. If that means making changes, then we're going to make changes. No one is going to sit back and be comfortable," Nichols said. 

Donaldson added that teachers "have really gotten intentional about knowing where kids are, understanding strengths and weaknesses."

The teachers also commended the administration for empowering teachers and ensuring that they have the materials they need. They also credited support staff for the school's success.   

Along with trying new teaching methods, staff have also worked to improve attendance rates and celebrate individual student's success, Donaldson said. 

"We've been trying to create this culture of success and encouraging students," she said. 

The Harmony Grove School District is the smallest district in the county. Staff calls the school's size a benefit. 

Parents know that their children are loved and care for, said Pam Balding, who has taught at the school for more than 35 years.

According to data on schooldigger.com, the school has 373 students and a student to teacher ratio of 14:7.

"Our school's small enough, we feel like a family," Nichols said. "Even though we're teeny, we have big hearts, big goals and our kids can do big things."  

Going forward, Donaldson and other members of her faculty said they want the school to keep improving. 

"An A is fabulous, but when we really look at data we realize that we still have work to do we want to be better," Donaldson said. 

The staff are also looking toward preparing students for Harmony Middle School.  

"I want them (parents) to be proud that their child comes to Westbrook Elementary. I want them to know that coming through Westbrook and then the rest of the Harmony Grove schools that their child has the potential to be as successful as a student who goes to any other school or district," Donaldson said. "I want us to be competitive no only within the county and the state, but I want a student from Haskell, Arkansas, to be able to go anywhere in the country and be successful." 

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