Professional Learning

School Turnaround Through a Thriving Culture and Building Relationships

4 Min Read
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Walk into any exquisite school, and you can feel it almost immediately—a peaceful yet energetic atmosphere that sings with an exciting and lively sense of purpose. Even though you may not be able to put your finger on it, you realize there is something different about the place that you just entered. As parents and visitors would visit our school, we would hear the same verbiage: “There is something different about this school; it feels so peaceful here,” or “This doesn’t feel like a school at all.” After hearing this verbiage consistently, we knew that we had tapped into something that not only we could sense and feel, but others could as well. We knew that this would be the movement to shift our school.

The Importance of Building Real Connections

If we are truthful, we have all visited places where we didn’t feel welcomed or the greeting that we received was not sincere. Chances are, those are the places we avoided going back to if possible. I learned that people don’t continue to visit places where they don’t feel welcomed or valued. After becoming an administrator, I vowed that I would focus on what was most important to me, and that was building relationships. Yes, I know, but what about the standards? Yes, those are very important, but a builder doesn’t build a house without securing a sturdy foundation. I have worked in many places where we missed it. We started the year off, and on day two we were already giving assessments. Nobody stopped to make real connections with the students. I mean, real connections, not just what is your favorite color, but a connection that allows you to really learn about that student as a person. You see, until we stop and build these kinds of relationships with our students, with our teachers, and with our families, we will never truly understand what it is like to experience a winning climate and culture that fosters long-lasting and meaningful relationships.

Building a strong culture is not an overnight task, but it can be done. Our journey started by making ourselves available to our parents when they entered our building. When they walked in the door, the office staff knew the expectation was that we offered top notch service. The service that keeps customers coming back, but most importantly, the service that says we care. We started making sure that every person that walked through our door received “A-Plus Crestmont Customer Service.” We hosted events for parents and caregivers, giving them a voice and a seat at the table. We had to be willing to hear their concerns, and we adjusted where we could. We made them feel a part of the team.

Creating a Culture of Positive Relationships

This was indeed a game changer! For the first time, families were excited to be in our building. Every event we had, parents and caregivers showed up in large numbers. Teachers made positive calls to family members discussing students’ growth and improvement. These calls established amazing relationships between teachers and families. The word was getting out! This climate and culture took off like fire. As new parents would enroll their students, they would say, “I heard amazing things about this school.” When people say the name of your school, what do they say? Creating schools with a culture of positive relationships is truly the foundation of success.


Crestmont Elementary School was named a Model School by ICLE for 2022. Join more than 5,000 educators in 100+ sessions at the 31st Annual Model Schools Conference in Orlando, Florida, from June 25–28, 2023, where you can learn more about school improvement plans.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.

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