Loftis Middle named a PTA School of Excellence

Loftis Middle School holds a ceremony announcing its designation as a PTA School of Excellence. It was one of only two schools in Tennessee to receive the designation, the other being Allen Elementary. "As a feeder school for Loftis, we work with Allen often and we are thrilled that our schools were both able to accomplish this at the same time," said Loftis PTA president Christy Carroll Highfill. (Contributed photo by Jana Clemons)
photo From left, Loftis PTA board member Cheryl Cambron, Gail Phillips, immediate past president of Tennessee PTA; Wayne Brown, president of Hamilton County PTA; Loftis PTA president Christy Carroll Highfill and Principal Brentley Eller celebrate the school being named a PTA School of Excellence by the National PTA board. (Contributed photo by Jana Clemons)

Loftis Middle School's upcoming Community Day Nov. 11 may be its sixth annual, but it will be the first after the school was named a PTA School of Excellence by the National PTA board - one of only two schools in Tennessee to receive the designation.

The title serves as a benchmark for the school's improvements, and events like the Community Day play into that.

The school's PTA created an action plan the summer before the 2016 school year by surveying parents about how the PTA could create a better partnership between students' families and the school itself.

Loftis PTA president Christy Carroll Highfill said the No. 1 goal was to improve not only how parents and families could engage with the school, but provide more opportunities to do so.

Step one was to make the school all-inclusive. That meant making handbooks and signs available in Spanish and creating better options for communication with deaf families.

If you go

Loftis Middle School is hosting its sixth annual Community Day, Car Show and Swap Meet Saturday, Nov. 11. Families are invited to attend the free event, which offers free food and drinks and features a car show plus vendors selling arts and crafts. The car show has a $10 entry fee, and all money collected will be donated to the Dallas Bay Volunteer Fire Department for its annual Christmas Fund, said Loftis resource officer Mike Houston. The Christmas fund purchases gifts and provides meals for children and families in need during the holidays.For more information, contact Mike Houston at 290-02574.Date: Nov. 11Time: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.Where: Loftis Middle School, 8611 Camp Columbus Road in HixsonCost: Free

"We wanted to ensure that parents and grandmas could be accommodated whenever they walked through the doors," Carroll Highfill said.

That was an easy fix - the bigger step was creating more opportunities for parents to engage with teachers, she said.

Previously, teachers would call home in the event of a student struggling or facing disciplinary action. Now, every teacher calls the home of every student at least once a semester to talk with parents and caregivers about the student's successes and places of improvement, regardless of his or her academic proficiency.

"The parents would call and say what a huge difference it was to hear from the teachers," Carroll Highfill said. "Even the students told us they liked it."

That direct contact has made a positive impact on the lives of many of the school's students and improved engagement at school, she said.

"Every child is an individual, and having the teachers talk to the families like they are shows how important each student is at Loftis," Carroll Highfill said.

If the school continues its success and is selected as a School of Excellence again in 2018, it will be up for a $2,000 grant from the National PTA board which can be used on school improvements.

This year's award was the result of the merits of the PTA's plan and how it achieved the group's goals.