Showing excellent school spirit

Every day, the staff of Sumner Elementary School cultivates the potential of students on the diverse Sumner/Danbury campus. It’s little wonder that Sumner has been selected as a 2012 California Distinguished School.

The award, which goes to only 3 percent of the state’s schools, recognizes those that demonstrate “educational excellence for all students and progress in narrowing the achievement gap.”

Students, parents and staff gathered on Friday, May 4 in a school-wide assembly, joined in applause as student council members raised an honorary flag.

District representatives and student council members took to a podium beneath a balloon arch to praise what is arguably the most unique school in Claremont.

“Sumner is a very special place and has been nurtured and supported with the strong leadership of Principal Frank D’Emilio for the past 7 years,”?said Arny Bloom, who is serving as interim principal while Mr. D’Emilio is on leave.

Speakers all agreed that there is something magic about Sumner and its union with Danbury.

“One word comes to mind when I think of our school: Diversity. Not only do the students here come from many different countries and backgrounds, but the interaction with the Danbury students is priceless,” said Sumner sixth grader Nisreen Radwan.

Nisreen was referring to the way Sumner activities and resources are regularly blended with those of the neighboring Danbury school, which serves disabled students.  

This campus cross-pollination is in full effect during Team Reading, one of 2 programs Sumner highlighted when applying for the Distinguished School award.

First and second graders from each campus gather every day for a 40-minute reading session, geared to each student’s reading level. The groups, which are led by teachers from Sumner and Danbury, range in size from 12 to 14 for proficient or advanced readers to smaller groups of 5 to 7 for at-risk students. Students are tested every 6 weeks to gauge their improvement. If a child fails to improve, he or she is moved to a smaller group, or a new teaching tactic is employed.

The other program highlighted was Sumner’s Student Study Team. Each month, teams of 5 or 6 teachers gather to focus on 12 students who teachers have singled out due to academic or behavioral concerns. The team, which often includes a child’s previous teacher as well as his or her current instructor, crafts a tailored intervention program.

Alice Haldi, the schools’ Title I coordinator, co-authored Sumner’s Distinguished Schools application, which was followed up by a visit from a team of educators to corroborate the submitted practices.

She feels the inclusiveness of Sumner/Danbury helped make a positive impression. To give an example of the ways the schools partner, Ms. Haldi noted that Danbury students are regularly sent to Sumner classes for lessons like math and also to be mainstreamed.

“It’s really good for [Danbury students] because they’re just like everybody else,” she said. “And the Sumner students just accept disability. You’ve got kids in wheelchairs and walkers and it’s not anything to stare at. It’s just another way of living.”

The children adjourned with bags of “Popping with Pride” popcorn, which Mr. Bloom encouraged the students to share with their families in celebration.

First, though, a group of kindergartners left their carpet-square seats to lead the school in a chorus of the Sumner Danbury school song, complete with hand gestures.

“We share one heart/Come together and the teamwork starts…/We are so many gifts in so many ways/Making choices every day/Reaching higher and higher.”

—Sarah Torribio


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