SPRING HILL — Challenger K-8 eighth-grader Asher Gibson and sixth-grader Paul Oliveri are the only Hernando School District students who earned two perfect scores on different sections of the Florida Standards Assessments. They, along with 91 district students who received perfects scores on at least one section of the tests taken last spring, were recently recognized by the School Board.
"It’s taken hard work," said Asher, 14. "I believe that if you work hard, you are able to achieve goals that you wish to achieve."
Asher had his perfect scores in Algebra I and civics. He had two perfect scores as a sixth-grader, too. Those were in math and English language arts. Paul’s top scores were in math and science.
"And the fifth-grade science is not easy," said Lisa Cropley, the principal at Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics.
"I always work hard," said Paul, 10. "Although some stuff is easy for me, some stuff is hard, and I have to work hard to achieve it."
Paul and Asher both appreciate their teachers.
"I think that my teachers really helped me. They definitely prepared me with their fullest effort," Asher said.
He even recognized the role administrators play.
"They definitely help us with organization to help with our success," he said.
The boys’ schools, Challenger K-8, along with Chochachatti Elementary School, were also recognized recently. During its spring session, the Florida Legislature created a new designation — Schools of Excellence.
To be named as such, schools must maintain a state grade of A or B for three years and rank in the 80th percentile or higher in the state’s school grade calculation for at least two of the three years.
Challenger K-8 and Chocachatti were recognized at the Oct. 18 State Board of Education meeting.
"It’s always been a high-performing school," Cropley said of Challenger. "We’ve still managed to make gains last year. Even your highest kids are expected to make gains. Teachers work hard, and they try to sneak in whenever they can to do lesson plans, grade papers, display student work, preparation for the kids."
"We have implemented a monthly schedule that includes professional development led by administrators or district development coaches," she added.
The school also has data chats to help make instructional decisions by grade or department, she said.
Another factor in the school’s success is the parents.
We have great parents," Cropley said. "It’s a huge component of it. ... You walk down the hall and see parents in alcoves doing novel studies with students."
Both Challenger and Chocachatti require eight parent volunteer hours a year.
Lara Silva, Chocachatti’s principal, also commended her faculty for the school being named a School of Excellence.
"Hands down, it’s the teachers," Silva said. "They’re the ones spending extra hours here preparing exciting lessons to make sure every child is successful."
Chocachatti has two programs that Silva strongly credits with helping her school achieve excellence.
"I really feel that our particular program that has performing arts and MicroSociety catch (students) in some way throughout the day," she said.
And Silva agrees with Cropley about the role parents play.
"We make sure they are partners with us. We even have a parent university here throughout the year," she said, which helps them learn how to help their children with various subjects.
The Chocachatti administration meets with struggling students to discus goals, grades and scores and to help motivate them.
"And we celebrate them," she said. "It’s their own self-image that’s going to make them successful."