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Malabar moving forward by 'working together like a family'

Math and science teacher Sandy Overholt works one-on-one with a small group of fourth-graders at Malabar.

      Malabar Intermediate School earned an overall grade of C on the 2018 state report card and another solid B for student progress, the result of what principal Andrea Moyer said is teachers’ persistent search for strategies that best serve students in the classroom.

      “Our Teacher-Based Teams” (TBTs) meet weekly. Each grade level gets together to discuss what we can do better to help students make gains,” Moyer said. “If something is working particularly well in one classroom it is shared with all.”

      Stephen Rizzo, Mansfield City Schools’ chief academic officer, said he sees strong gains in English language arts and math at Malabar.

      “This is the second year in a row that Malabar has displayed very good growth in the progress component of the state report card,” Rizzo said. “These results are because of the strong leadership at Malabar and how students, staff and families are working together. The gains are a reflection of what can be achieved when everyone who cares comes together.”

      The state defines the progress component of the report card as “the growth that all students are making based on their past performances.”

      This is the first year that the Ohio Department of Education has assigned an overall letter grade to each school. Moyer said Malabar, which has an enrollment of 728, will take the C and build on it.

      “While we review and develop classroom teaching strategies we will continue our focus on building relationships with students,” she said. “We’re learning new ways to communicate and de-escalate problems to keep kids in classrooms. We are developing alternatives to out-of-school suspensions.”

      The intermediate grades – 4, 5 and 6, where ages generally range from 10 to 12 – offer challenges in many ways, Moyer said.

      “Kids in this age range still need a lot of support but they are starting to want to become more independent. They are eager to learn and still get excited about learning. Most will ask for help if they need it,” she said.

      Rizzo agreed.

      “Malabar has a very positive school climate. Students are there to learn,” he said.

      A key way that climate is preserved, Moyer said, is by immediately recognizing students who may be having problems when they arrive at school.

      “We have a team of teachers assigned to greet kids as they got off the buses. They are watching for signs that a student is upset -- facial expressions, tears, fists balled up,” she said. “We will take a student aside if he or she seems upset and talk with them to de-escalate the problem before classes start.”

      Moyer said having two counselors at the school this year is “a big help.”

      Students have completed anti-bullying lessons and social skills lessons focused on “how to get along.”

      “We have challenges but we’re meeting them,” Moyer said. “Overall, our parents are supportive. They want to help their kids.

      “We will keep moving forward. How our staff works together is like a family.”

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