"You’re in Smartville now!"
That’s where Georgia School Superintendent John Barge found himself as he entered Gainesville’s Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy on Friday.
"We’ve turned our school into a village," explained Enota Assistant Principal Jennifer Westbrook as she took him on a tour. "And it allows the kids to use their smarts and go to some different places while they’re in school."
Barge visited the elementary school to present it with the Family-Friendly Partnership School award. Enota was one of four schools in the state to receive the honor, based on customer service provided by school staff for students and parents.
Barge visited with students in two different classrooms, and participated in a round-table discussion with school leaders, parents and other stakeholders prior to a schoolwide assembly.
"Having been here this morning only for a short amount of time, I can tell you that this is a very friendly place," Barge said to the audience. "I got to visit a couple of classrooms ... even the few classes that I went to, the boys’ and girls’ books were open and they were so nice to me."
He said the students told him all about what they were studying, and what they like to do when not in the classroom, like play in the rain.
"You guys are just a welcoming place, and that’s what this is all about," he said.
"This is a school of tradition, a strong culture," said Enota Principal Matt Maynor. "There’s just a wonderful family atmosphere between students, parents, staff and the community."
Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said it was a proud moment for Enota and its students.
"(I’m proud) that we have a state and a state school superintendent in Dr. Barge who thinks it’s very important for parents to be a part of our school," Dyer said.
Barge presented the school with both a plaque and a large welcome mat for the front of the building.
The Georgia Department of Education developed the Family-Friendly Partnership School initiative in 2010 to encourage Title I schools to work more closely with families and communities. For Enota’s winning application, the school described how it holds multiple parent events throughout the year, as well as scheduling individual parent tours. Enota also has partnered with an apartment complex to encourage school attendance and increase literacy engagement.