Collaborating to Change Schools

Ogden’s Bonneville Elementary Successfully Implements Turnaround Program

Breanna Olaveson | Photos by Kevin Kiernan May 1, 2019
Principal Shauntelle Cota

Everyone knows it takes a village to raise a child. And the teachers, staff, administrators and students at Bonneville Elementary School in Ogden know it takes a village to raise a school — specifically, from a failing grade to an excellent one.

“We took an all-hands-on-deck approach,” says Shauntelle Cota, principal of Bonneville Elementary School. “Improving the school’s performance involved a lot of partnerships with the district and community. We couldn’t do it just as a school. We needed outside support and resources from people who could see things from a different perspective.”

Improvements to the school’s test scores and teaching performance came after Bonneville was designated a “turnaround” school in 2015. Under Utah’s School Turnaround and Leadership Development Act, passed in 2015, Utah schools that perform in the bottom 3 percent are designated as turnaround schools and have three years to improve in certain areas.

To say the school succeeded would be an understatement. The school, which had an “F” grade in 2015, was rated a “B” school two years into the program, making it the most improved turnaround school in Utah at the time.

“It’s really exciting,” Cota says. “The teachers feel good about the progress they’ve made and what we’ve all done to lay a strong foundation for the future.”

As of Fall 2018, Bonneville Elementary School is no longer designated as a turnaround school. Janice Bukey, who was brought to Bonneville to lead the turnaround process as principal, has moved on to another school. Cota, who became school principal in 2018, is leading the school toward a bright future.

Here’s how they did it.

Teaching the Whole Child

While turnaround status is largely based on low test scores, Bonneville’s administration and staff knew those scores told only part of the story.

“We had to look at the whole child,” Cota says. “We had to look not only at their academic needs, but also their social, emotional, learning and other needs. We looked at not only their cognitive skills but also their behavioral and social skills.”

Many students at Bonneville come from homes where trauma is present, and a high percentage of students receive free and reduced lunch benefits.

“We’d be remiss if we overlooked the fact that those factors would affect their academics,” Cota says. “Looking at the whole child, and not just the test score, helped us better understand what we could do to fill in the gaps in a way that would help them be successful both in school and in life later on.”

Principal Cota works with students at Bonneville Elementary.

Enlisting Help from the Community

Once students’ needs were identified, Bonneville reached out to the community. A local community council now meets with school officials to give input on programs and help with other decisions.

New reading programs were introduced to the school. Teachers received more staff assistance. The school implemented “student intervention time” to assess and address students’ individual needs. Ed Direction, a Salt Lake City-based company that gives support to turnaround schools, partnered with Bonneville Elementary to provide teacher training. Test scores improved.

Looking to the Future

Now that the turnaround period is over, it might seem like the work is done. But Cota and her staff know this is only the beginning.

“We want to continue increasing the rigor of our classes and seeing test scores continue to improve,” Cota says. “But we have built a solid foundation.”  

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