What makes a school district exceptional?

Much has been written on the subject but researchers usually cite a few key factors, including motivated students, committed teachers and visionary administrators and school boards.

A factor sometimes overlooked but always present in every high-achieving district is community support and engagement. Call it the “X Factor” or the secret sauce, but it is an essential component  in going from good to great.

When a community embraces its schools, they succeed. When a community invests in its teachers and students, they flourish.

We were reminded of that after reading Karen Cernich’s excellent piece on the 25th Anniversary of Washington’s Investment in Great Schools, better known as WINGS, in last week’s Wednesday Missourian.

Credit former Superintendent Dr. Jerry Chambers for coming up with the idea to create a nonprofit educational foundation to provide those things that help educators provide more effective and engaging lessons for students, but fall outside of their schools’ budgets.

Cernich’s story highlighted how over the past 25 years the foundation grants have been used to stimulate teaching and learning and have made a difference in the lives of countless teachers and students.

The level of investment has been substantial.

As Cernich reported, since the first teacher grant of $100 was awarded in 1993 to Larry Tobben for his art classes, WINGS has given more than 979 grants totaling more than $440,181 to educators in the Washington School District.

Over the years, WINGS has grown and so has the size of the grants to tackle even larger projects and needs. The group now awards one $10,000 STEAM grant (which stands for science, technology, engineering, art and math) each year. That is an impressive feat.

WINGS has created an endowment that is on target to surpass $1 million in the near future. It is a testament to the magnitude of the organization, its fundraising prowess and the support it receives from the community. 

WINGS has enjoyed a remarkable run. None of this would be possible without the help of its intrepid and passionate board. The group’s leadership has always included prominent civic leaders and education advocates who carry the torch for the district and illuminate the work of its many dedicated teachers.

In a community renowned for its volunteerism, WINGS stands tall.  For the past 25 years it has been the catalyst in promoting and sustaining the essential school-community partnership that is critical to student success.

We tip our hats to this outstanding organization that has indeed been a pillar of support to the Washington School District and our community.