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West Decatur Elementary School

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Decatur, Austin High Schools Represent Renaissance

Lee Lott retires next year after teaching at Decatur High School for 34 years, and this year was her 5th consecutive year to attend the Jostens Renaissance conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

Except this year, Lee didn’t just attend. She was asked to speak during special presentations for the conference, along with 4 other representatives from Decatur High and 4 representatives from Austin High.

Dr. Johnny Berry, Brad Boy, Mark Christopher, Kiersten Jones, and Lee Lott formed the team from Decatur High School, and Joy Dixon, Tina Lawrence, Joanna Schley, and Heather Tucker came from Austin High School.

Lee and her colleagues spoke about how they use pioneering methods of incorporating a Renaissance mindset in our high schools.

The Renaissance mindset is clear. “Every day should have one purpose and that purpose should be to make every student feel welcome and loved and part of our school family,” Lee says.

Jostens representative Randy Brock helps to pay for both Decatur and Austin representatives to attend the conference with the intention of using the conference as a catalyst for building positive school cultures.

“I wish people could feel it,” Lee says of the inspiration she feels after the conference.

But people can feel it when they’re around Lee and around other Renaissance-minded people.

Lee treats her students with respect. “I model my interactions with them the way I want them to interact with other people.”

And it stems from her heart. “Every kid needs hugs,” Lee says.

At Decatur City Schools, we want our students to feel supported and successful. We want them to belong. We want this Renaissance to be an era of making conscious decisions to change a place through relationships. “This isn’t just an event,” Lee says. “It’s a way of life.”

So what does that way of life look like for Decatur City Schools?

It means pep rallies with inspiring themes that celebrate people who never thought they’d be celebrated.

It means students mentoring new teachers to explain traditions, activities, and special schedules.

It means a 9th Grade Day in which incoming 9th graders come to school before school starts just to walk their schedules, learn the ropes, and receive a welcoming gift.

It means Honor Roll parties every 9 weeks for all A/B students. These parties include VISA gift card, YETI cups, restaurant cards, movie passes, and iPad giveaways, and non-cafeteria food!

It means creating bulletin boards that celebrate students “caught” doing acts of kindness.

It means randomly raining candy into classrooms with perfect attendance.

It means an ACT wall to honor those who excel academically.

It also means reaching out to the graduating class with a senior breakfast, intramural basketball game, and handwritten notes from their classmates.

Basically, Renaissance means winning. Lots of winning.

So is it working?

You bet it is. In just one year of Renaissance-minded progress, class-learning benchmarks improved by over 21%, composite scores increased by almost 2% across the board, and Advanced Placement (AP) class enrollment nearly tripled.

“Renaissance is a life-changing conference,” Lee says. “It changes you from the inside out.”

So whether it’s changing lives one hug at a time, or changing schools one climate at a time, Decatur City Schools is proud to join the Jostens Renaissance winning team. Every day.