In the recent AYP article, a chart delineated how Billings’ schools were performing as a whole and in subpopulations of minority and at-risk students. McKinley Elementary was shown to have one of the poorest performing subpopulations. What the article did not mention was that McKinley educators teach to a 50 percent modular population. Simply put, one of two students leave and another arrives during the year, due to the ever-changing population of students from the homeless shelter and the large number of students coming from low-income rentals that statistically turn over quickly.
The article indicates that attendance directly impacts performance, and with most of our student population being bused in, kids who miss the bus at McKinley, don’t have the luxury of walking to school. McKinley staff, formerly led by Principal Dr. Shanna Henry and now Bert Reyes, have brainstormed new ways to help at-risk kids get to school safely and on-time.
I admire our staff tremendously. They do some of the toughest teaching in Billings, and do it with deft and pride. Kids in high-risk situations (homelessness, poverty, abuse) are physically struggling to get their brain out of “danger mode,” and our teachers are doing incredible things for these kids. Our teachers also nurture very bright students, in fact five of the 28 children selected to the new accelerated fourth/fifth grade program at Poly are from McKinley. We have some great schools, but I am proud of our neighborhood school, Billings’ first school — McKinley Elementary!