When a visitor walks into the halls of Graves Central Elementary School, named a 2017 Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education, the first thing that they’ll notice is the walls: decorated in a motif of castles and knights. It goes beyond just casual decorations.
“We have the Knights mascot, and we base everything around that mascot,” said Alecia Ladd, the assistant principal of the school. “The chivalry, the attitude and other things that you associate with the mascot. We embed that training in our kids from kindergarten on.”
Ladd, who has been at the Graves County school since it was opened in 2004, said that the staff works hard to instill certain behavioral standards for students as a way to help them meet expectations and to feel a part of the student body.
“We have a lot of transient students,” said Ladd. “That’s probably our biggest challenge as a school and it can be difficult to instill those ideas into them when they haven’t been here from the beginning, but I think we do a great job of it.”
Central Elementary has a mobility rate of 23 percent annually, creating a struggle to lead students to perform at benchmark levels because of the large amount of new students enrolled each year.
The behavior standards are summed up with an acronym A.R.M.O.R., which stands for Attitude, Responsibility, Manners, Order and Respect. Another allusion to the mascot.
Every day, along with the Pledge of Allegiance, students go over A.R.M.O.R. with special movements to help them memorize the meaning behind the phrase.
Staff members at the school seek to help students build pride in the school by holding different events, such as the First Grade Fairy Tale Ball. It’s a special showcase where 1st-grade students dress up as princes and princesses and show off their style and dance moves for parents, with the goal of helping students gain pride in the school.
“What makes us a Blue Ribbon school is the family that we create here,” said Ladd. “Our students, our staff and our parents. Students will rise to meet our expectations. If you look to see their potential, not their problems, they’ll rise to the challenges you set for them.”