by Gerald Terrell
My visit to Cherokee Elementary School, a Core Knowledge school in Americus, Georgia last week provided an interesting and inspiring experience. Here in this small, rural community (population 17,000) I found a delightful and well-maintained mid-sized school, under the leadership of Dr. Wanda Jackson. Cherokee is clearly committed to excellence and fairness in early education and has fully embraced the ideas set forth by E.D. Hirsch, Jr. and the Core Knowledge Foundation.
I first met Dr. Jackson at our Leadership Institute a couple of years ago. She was so excited about implementing Core Knowledge and invited me to please pay them a visit. If you recall, Americus was hit with a terrible hurricane last year. I spoke to Dr. Jackson in the aftermath of the hurricane and she indicated that no matter what had occurred with respect to the hurricane, Cherokee Elementary was dedicated to Core Knowledge now more than ever. She indicated that they were planning a Core Knowledge Day for the community and that someone from the Foundation had to come. When I considered all that had happened to this community and their commitment to Core Knowledge, I had to go.
Cherokee’s commitment to Core Knowledge is further evidenced in how the school has engaged its entire community. My visit included a breakfast meeting with the Superintendent of Schools, various principals, central office staff, school board members, city councilors, and other interested citizens. Never before have I had the opportunity to speak to such an array of interested individuals who were so receptive to the work of the Foundation, in general, and the progress of a school in particular. Prior to my presentation, we were all entertained by a choral group and students from the art club who, under the direction of the art and music teachers demonstrated how music and art can be integrated into Core Knowledge history and geography. It was an exciting and educational experience.
After a day of classroom visits, came the grand finale of my visit. That evening I was treated to a spaghetti dinner along with over 200 parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and anyone else who saw the sign welcoming me to Cherokee Elementary. Again the students entertained the audience with songs and recitals. The teachers, who I really enjoyed meeting and visiting their classrooms, served dinner to the parents and students. I made a short presentation and spent the rest of the time talking to parents.
In 12 years of traveling the country to visit Core Knowledge schools, this visit stands out as one of my best.
Gerald Terrell is the Executive Vice President, K-8 Schools, of the Core Knowledge Foundation