Connolly highlights the school's students, teachers, academics, relationships, and success
Mickey Connolly, principal at Monarch Elementary School, presented information to the school board about his school Monday night at the school board meeting. He made an acronym of the word STARS, to make his presentation.
S stands for students, which he says is always first. The school gives them opportunities to lead, whether it’s presenting the morning announcements in a daily newscast, helping in the library as cadets, giving back to the community, or many other positions.
T stands for teachers. Connolly said they teach with heart, loving their students and their job, with hands-on, engaging content. They meet their students where they are. They are also professionals, collaborating with their peers in the school and across the district in training opportunities.
A stands for academics, which Connolly said are out of this world. There are many things they do to emphasize reading, including a program called One Book, One School, where the whole school reads the same book and does different activities across the different grade levels. They write with purpose and look for opportunities to make writing meaningful, including getting to read what they write on the morning news. In science, math, and STEM activities, students have focused on building, creating, exploring, and more. Connolly noted that one grade adopted a cow, studied cows, and even made butter by the end of the week. He said there is a schoolwide focus on research, which is really exciting. The teachers collaborate with the media specialist, and together they teach the students research skills and whatever topic is being researched. They are able to publish their research in a variety of formats and make presentations about what they researched.
R stands for relationships, which Connolly said is the most important aspect of what they do in school. Relationships with students, families, staff, and the community are emphasized. He said the teachers love their students and express it in many different ways. Relationships with families have been harder during the pandemic, but the school and teachers have created virtual events and communicate with parents as much as possible electronically and by phone. He said staff relationships are very important, as evidenced by a book he was given early in his career, titled “If You Don’t Feed the Teachers, They Eat the Students.” He said the school works on ways to foster relationships among the staff, whether it’s inviting in a food truck, hosting a paint night, or having a book giveaway just for the teachers. He talked about the numerous community partners they have, including Morningside Baptist Church, Trinity Baptist Church, Walmart, Clemson Extension, Union County Carnegie Library, Rotary Club, Dollar General, Elks Club, Union County First Steps, and My First Library.
S stands for success, which Connolly said happens every day. He touted the school’s good results on state testing, while noting there are areas of improvement needed that they are working to address. He said MAP reading fluency has really improved with the phonics and Letterland program that is in use. He said success isn’t just about academics, and highlighted Andrew Lee, the custodian who was awarded the Custodians Are Key award from an outside agency and was also named Support Staff Member of the Year at the school. He said success is shown in the number of teachers who stay at the school, saying staff retention is high at Monarch.
The board stated their appreciation for Connolly and the work that the school is doing and the success it is showing.