CLARKSDALE — After some seven years of planning, an elementary school here is now providing students with an education reaching far beyond the Delta by exposing them to international studies.
Since completing the authorization process, Booker T. Washington International Studies Magnet Elementary School offers the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme which is designed to help students grow and excel through a broader curriculum than is traditionally taught in state schools.
“We wanted to offer our students a more holistic education which will instill in them the skills, knowledge, and outlook to succeed in the 21st century, both in their local community and in the wider world,” Principal Londeria Hayes said in a press release.
Three years ago, Hayes said she started out as the first Primary Years Programme coordinator at the school. Along with other staff members, she said she attended several training sessions and had to reprogram their thinking and curriculum to merge with the International Baccalaureate curriculum and philosophy.
Hayes said that the authorization normally wouldn’t take as long as it did, but the school had gone through a number of principals prior to her.
“It was not an easy task, and it’s still a very rigorous task,” said Hayes.
Incorporating the International Baccalaureate program to the school’s curriculum added additional costs, such as paying for teachers to receive training and paying an annual fee of about $9,500 a year, said Hayes.
Booker T. Washington is one of 4,500 schools offering the program in 147 countries, according to the press release. There are three other elementary schools in Mississippi that are offering the Primary Years Programme: Davis Magnet School in Jackson as well as H.M. Nailor Elementary School in Cleveland and Hayes Cooper Center in Merigold.
The Booker T. Washington program is offered to students between ages 3-12 and is divided into three sections:
•Primary Years Programme (ages 3-12) focuses on thinking outside of the box.
• Middle Years Programme (ages 11-16) focuses on reflexive thinking.
• Diploma Programme (ages 16-19) prepares students for universities and life beyond.
On Monday, the school celebrated its authorization by hosting an International Baccalaureate Authorization Awards ceremony for students, parents, faculty, staff, and the community. At the ceremony, students who were on the honor roll, principal’s list, and superintendent’s list were honored.
The program started with a few first grade students who recited the pledge of allegiance and the school pledge. Afterwards, fourth grader A’Kiyah Campbell welcomed everyone.
“Our focus as an International Baccalaureate [IB] school is on international and global and is designed to help students understand their own cultures, international identities, and encourages us as a people to explore other cultures,” said mistress of ceremony, Spanish teacher Andrea Johnson, during the celebration.
Johnson said the program is community-based and focuses on core themes such as who we are, where we are in time and place, sharing the planet, how the world works, how we organize ourselves, and how we express ourselves.
She also said it focuses on current educational issues like peace on earth, education for all and conflict of global infectious disease.
Keynote speaker, Mississippi House Rep. Orlando Paden, D-Clarksdale, engaged the students by having them repeat certain words and chants after him.
“If its to be, its up to me, say it with it,” Paden said into the mic as the students cheered out after him.
Paden’s initial message was to encourage students to do their best daily. “I encourage everyone each day to be your best everyday,” said Paden. “You have what it takes to be a winner.”
After the awards ceremony, Hayes said that the Primary Years Programme program is important for students because it exposes them to their own cultures as well as different cultures that they wouldn’t normally be exposed to.
Jamyla Evans, parent of a pre-kindergarten student at Booker T. Washington, said that her daughter loves the school and she’s excited to learn.
“She’s only in pre-kindergarten and she can count her numbers in Spanish. She knows all of her colors and months,” said Evans.
“We have a lot of wonderful things going on in our schools,” said Dr. Dorothy Prestwich, assistant superintendent of the Clarksdale Municipal School District.
Clarksdale Mayor Bill Luckett said it is an honor to be one of the few schools in the state to be authorized as an International Baccalaureate School. Luckett said that this is a really good start for their students.
“We’re improving, but we have work to do,” said Luckett.
“Each day, we’re trying to instill in them [students] some of these big words that you hear them say and use everyday because we want them to be global minded citizens to be able to not only respect themselves and their culture, but all cultures and people all over the world,” said Hayes.