Published, Monday, May 31, 1999
HOW DID BRICEVILLE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, WITH 140
STUDENTS IN GRADES K-5, BECOME
ONE OF ONLY 88 SCHOOLS NATIONWIDE TO BE NAMED AS A NATIONAL TITLE I DISTINGUISED SCHOOL?; HARD WORK AND A
SENSE OF PRIDE
Section: A SECTION
Illustration: (Color) Taylor Guffey, left, and Tim Lawson enjoy a break from classes at
BRICEVILLE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL recently. Briceville
is one of only 88 schools in the nation to be named a Title I Distinguished
Emily Wheeler gets help with her reading from her
first-grade teacher, Melissa Martin. Emily
is one of only four pupils in her Small Reading Group at Briceville Elementary.; BRICEVILLE
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL (Color) Briceville
Elementary,- BRICEVILLE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL Photos by Joe HowelI News-Sentinel
BY MORGAN SIMMONS, NEWS-SENTINEL STAFF WRITER
can see it in the hallways, which are spotlessly clean, and you see it in the
school's newly landscaped grounds.
most of all, you see it in the academic achievements of the students that attend
this tiny elementary school nestled in the mountains of Anderson County.
Elementary School -- grades Kindergarten through fifth -- was one of only 88
schools nationwide named recently as a National Title I Distinguished School.
federal Title I program provides assistance to schools in economically depressed
areas. According to Anderson County
Title I director Sally Jackson, Briceville won the award because the school's
140 students have exceeded academic achievement goals for the past three years.
scores increased 31 percent over the past four years, and students' math
competency soared by 58 percent between 1993 and 1998.
Jackson credited a combination of "family and community involvement,
principal leadership and dedicated and qualified staff' for the improvements.
The school lets out for summer on Thursday.
single program or individual gained the success for Briceville Elementary,"
Jackson said. "It's been hard
work, and very frustrating at times."
3.5 miles southwest of Lake City on state Highway 116, Briceville lies in the
heart of Tennessee's coal country. Waldens
Ridge runs directly in front of the school, and Cross Mountain -- once an active
strip mining site -- dominates the view from the school's playground.
small building across the road from Briceville Elementary was once a coal
company store. Other remnants of
the coal boom include empty company houses and a cemetery a half-mile from town
where the victims of a turn-of-the-century mine explosion are buried in a
in the late 1970's, as coal mining in the Cumberland Mountains played out, the
population of Briceville declined as families left to find work.
Braden, a former student and teacher at Briceville, and now the school's
principal, remembers how the community
was king, then the prices bottomed out. It
was depressing to see how so many people had to leave.
Nobody was interested in Briceville."
the fall of 1992, school officials and Title I staff embarked on a series of
major overhauls that would not only turn Briceville Elementary into a far more
effective learning institution, but also establish it as the town's community
two days, the school's entire staff -- the principal, teachers, even the
custodians -- assembled in the cafeteria. Led
by an outside facilitator from the University of Tennessee, they hammered out
new goals, identified the barriers for achieving them and decided how these
barriers could be overcome.
principal at the time, Bruce Lay, began making frequent visits to the classroom
to monitor teachers'
performance. Teachers who couldn't
meet the new standards didn't last long, and in the meantime new teachers were
hired, while the best of the existing staff stayed on.
the same time, the school's Family Resource Center -- a state-funded program --
began an aggressive campaign to make parents feel part of the school community.
An open house was held, but few parents came.
Notes were sent home to parents
through the students, and when that didn't work, the school's staff began making
phone calls, even making personal visits.
A Parent Advisory Panel was created to serve as a liaison between the school and the parents in the community. In 1994, Briceville's Parent Teacher Organization raised enough money to build a new playground.
the new playground, with its picnic tables, swing sets and running track, is
used not just by Briceville
students but by the whole community.
can come by here any Sunday and see families eating at the picnic tables,"
Braden said. "People
here take pride in this place. You
won't see any litter, and nothing gets stolen.
Used to be, you didn't leave anything on the playground because it would
the Briceville Elementary
gymnasium has become an after-hours community center for aerobics classes, baton
lessons and basketball games. The school has a new air conditioning system -- "By
noon, we used to really sweat," Braden said. -- and there are computers in
money from a technology grant, the school has built a multimedia center next to
the library complete with digital camera, scanners, computers, and a
and their parents from Briceville and surrounding coal towns such as Petros and
Coalfield come to Briceville Elementary once a week for classes on learning
development and health. And thanks
to the Family Resource Center, no longer are there walls between the community
and the classrooms.
staff is excellent, and they expect the students to learn," said Kim
Phillips a parent-volunteer whose daughter, Lindsey, attends first grade at
Briceville. "You can tell they
care for and love them."
Simmons can be reached at 423-521-1842
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