Maximo is on the rise

Principal LaKisha Falana 



ST. PETERSBURG — It’s back to school and Maximo Elementary is on the rise.

Since becoming a Transformation Zone two years ago, Maximo Elementary has increased its school assessment by two letter grades.

Principal LaKisha Falana, who is beginning her third year as principal at Maximo, believes that since they have begun to empower the students, the success of the school has been of their own doing.

Yes, new curriculum has been implemented and new behavioral plans have been established, but Falana is certain that by putting further responsibility on the students, they’ve taken ownership and have invested their educational equity into growing and improving the school.

“They’ve built a belief in what they’re doing,” said Falana.

This year’s focus will be on increased academic rigor and family/community involvement. “We welcome you,” Falana said.

Maximo, focused, featuredIn the past parent participation in social events has been extraordinary according to Falana, but she would like to see more involvement on the academic side.

Academic events will become more student centered this year, student led conferences are on the agenda. The conferences will be an additional opportunity for parents to see their children on stage and in the limelight, while demonstrating to their parents and fellow students what they are expected to know on a quarterly basis.

Falana and her family community navigator will also put home visits into effect, a plan that she has seen work in other communities. Working with Kalei Davis, School Board of Pinellas County transformation team member and Lakewood Elementary, teams will visit each child and parent in their homes.

The intent will be to strengthen partnerships and reduce any discomfort or perceived intimidation from the school by parents. Falana is insistent on building good parental involvement by asking, “What would you like from us?”

Parents will be called in advance to set a time and date for each home visit.

Parental involvement comes in all forms to include agreeing to home visits, email correspondence, teleconferences and even providing their children with the appropriate uniform and materials needed to be successful in the classroom.

In Falana’s first year, behavior fractions decreased by over 50 percent. After implementing a school wide behavior plan for all classrooms and grade levels, infractions decreased by 20 percent the following year.

The new plan uses common language and provides consistency throughout the school and focuses on positive reinforcement. Each student will be expected to know how he or she needs to behave no matter the environment or staff member.

Positive changes in staff occurred over the summer. Maximo gained 18 new family members to include 12 veteran teachers, two new teachers, a new assistant principal and new behavior, media and PT specialists.

New math curriculum, Eureka Math, from Great Minds, which strives to connect math to the real world through logical progression and in ways that take the fear out of math and build student confidence will be implemented for the first time this year, in addition to a new attendance achievement program.

Falana is a Pinellas County native and a product of the Pinellas County Public School system. She taught in the classroom for eight years, was an assistant principal for five and is entering her sixth year as a principal.

She admits that being the principal at Maximo Elementary has been a humbling experience. “Being charged this task has not been an easy one, you have to be a team player, you have to have that support,” said Falana. “It’s been humbling and an honor to be able to make a positive change.”

The last three years at Maximo have taught Falana that “no matter where you come from, no matter your life experiences you can succeed. It doesn’t matter how you start or finish, success is obtainable.”

“Maximo Elementary is on the rise! We are a learning institution that provides quality instruction to all of our children. Even greater things are to come, we truly believe in our vision of 100 percent student success,” ensured Falana.

Back-to-school night and Open House will be held Thursday, Sept. 1 from 6 – 7:30 p.m. at Maximo Elementary School, 4850 31st St S, St. Petersburg.

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