When Andrew Bott became principal of Orchard Gardens Elementary School in Roxbury, Mass., he was the sixth principal to hold the job in seven years. Only about half of the teachers would return to the school each year. Students feared daily for their lives and safety in a school that was plagued by violence and chaos. And the school was ranked in the bottom five of all public schools in the state of Massachusetts.
When Bott took over the reins of this troubled school, he did something so unexpected that many called him crazy. He took the school's entire security budget and reinvested it in the arts. He fired the security guards and hired more art teachers at a school where kids were previously not even allowed to have backpacks over fears that they would smuggle weapons into the school. Can you even imagine the skepticism that Bott was met with when he presented this idea at the school board meeting?
But it's just three years later, and Bott's crazy idea appears to be paying off. Orchard Gardens has one of the fastest student improvement rates statewide. The once institutional-looking halls of the school are now covered with beautiful artwork and essays of achievement created by the students. And most importantly, many of the students, who were once written off as troubled and unruly, have found their passions and are channeling their focus via the arts.
It's an inspirational story that may change the way you think about school security issues.
Check out this "NBC Nightly News" piece about Orchard Gardens and Bott's "Big Idea" and let us know what you think in the comments below.
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