"It shows that we are doing things right," said Beard during a walk-through of her school building yesterday. "We're doing something correctly. We are the first and only school in Carlsbad to receive an 'A.'"
Beard has been the principal at Puckett for the last 14 years, and she admittedly has a passion for the students, the staff members, and the surrounding Carlsbad community. "It's my home. This is just a nice place to be, and the kids like it too," she said.
Third-grade teacher Kyle Martin agrees.
"We have a wonderful staff. We all get along and support and help each other. It's also a great group of kids. They come to school every day. Even with some of the problems that they have, they still come and they learn and they do their best. That's why we're an 'A' school." This is Martin's fourth year at Puckett, and Beard bragged that he has produced excellent results in his classroom.
Beard believes Puckett's Guided Reading program, led by reading coach Denice Peterson, contributed to the school's success. The program allows for students who have fallen behind in reading to catch up with their classmates during the year. "One of the many strategies is getting them (the students) in a small group at their reading level. You work on independence so that you have kids reading to themselves or reading with a partner," said Peterson. "It's a great program. We've seen a lot of growth."
"Reading is so important to us. We test to see where they are when they come to us," explained Beard. "We know where they need to be. But if we start where they are and grow them up, then we've accomplished what we need to do."
To help students further sharpen their thinking skills, Puckett School also offers extracurricular activities such as a chess club and an American Sign Language class after school hours. "We provide this ASL after-school class so that our student who is hard of hearing may have a peer group that is able to communicate with him. It's been a good experience for a lot of people," said Beard.
But besides the reading focus and extracurricular activities that Puckett School provides, Beard also attributes the school's "A" to the good behavior of the students. "Another reason we have a lot of success is that we have an anti-bully program that we've had for the last seven to eight years. By the time kids are in third and fourth grade, they are so ingrained with what they should and should not do. We really have good behavior here," she said.
Beard is also grateful for parental and community support, and she knows that the "A" was not earned without help from them. "I think the support that Puckett has had from the school district and from the actual school community is a big part of our success here. And supportive parents. They support the school, and that makes a big difference."
But Beard is choosing not to direct her focus on what the "A" means for her school alone. She wants the community to understand what this means for the whole school district. "You hear on the news, you see in the newspapers not so nice things about schools," she said. "I wanted the community to know that this school is on the right track. We provide quality instruction to our students, and that's happening throughout the entire district. I just want the community to have confidence and faith in the school district because we really are working hard to do what's best for kids."