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Relationships at the Center of Earle Brown Restructure

Thursday, May 21, 2020


This fall, Earle Brown Elementary School STEAM (EBE) will be reconfiguring its school structure from grade-level pods to “Family Houses.” 

Jeff Wilson, principal at EBE, said the new approach to the school community will create a“school within a school.” Each student will be placed in a K-5 house. Each house will be located in a pod, rather than a grade-level pod. In addition to K-5 teachers, each house has the following staff members:

  • Assistant principal
  • Social worker
  • English language teacher
  • Special education support
  • Student support specialists
  • Special area teachers, such as music, gym, art and Project Lead the Way (PLTW)

Students will work with the same staff members during their entire elementary experience. 

Wilson said the potential for positive outcomes is overwhelming.

“As we roll this out, we’re anticipating fewer discipline referrals, less bullying and greater staff support for each student,” Wilson said. “Students are going to get to know teachers and staff members really well over the years. Plus, siblings are guaranteed to be in the same family house, so parents will become more and more familiar and connected with the education experience.”

Wilson and other staff members  at EBE have taken note of the diverse needs of the student population and studied other schools that have used this model. Additionally, Wilson notes that there have been a number of staff listening sessions, conversations, surveys and other work done to ensure as smooth a transition as possible.

“After we heard from the staff and our community, then announced the change, we let the dust settle for a bit,” Wilson said. “The group is catching the vision and already seeing how this can be a long-term positive for the entire Earle Brown community.”

Building strong relationships

Kindergarten teacher Melanie Krystyniak added that keeping relationships intact from year to year allows teaching teams and students to build on solid foundations and increase the capacity for learning.

“Family Houses allow us to come in at the beginning of each year knowing a majority of the students on a deeper level and having built a solid base for our relationships,” Krystyniak said. “In turn, this will allow us to increase our academic rigor earlier in the year and take us further through learning.”

Second grade teacher Danielle Hillside mentioned that in smaller communities, it is easier to spotlight unique talents and abilities of a greater number of students.

“By dividing into Family Houses, we are able to take a small group of students and focus on them,” Hillside said. “We can showcase unique abilities, provide student mentors, and allow students to work together to share their knowledge and empower each other.”

To get the community ready before the start of school this fall, Wilson knows there is a lot of work to do. But he’s also convinced that this is the right time and that the right people are in place to make it happen. 

“Our teachers do an amazing job every day — they build excellent relationships with students and families and among themselves,” Wilson said. “I feel great about the people we have in place. This really just emphasizes the qualities that our teachers already have, which will put everyone in a better position to succeed.”