David Abbey is the principal of Kingswood Park Public School in Penrith, New South Wales, Australia, considered a suburb of Sydney. Kingswood Park has its familiar issues -- a "socio-economic disadvantage" in large part because of a dwindling student body, "a significant Aboriginal population" and many of its students hailing from single-parent families. It receives government funding; over there it's called "charity status." Which is why, in the fall of 2010, Abbey came to the United States and Canada -- in search of educational role models, successful schools that might be willing to share their blueprints for success. He needed help. And as you could probably guess by now, one of the schools he visited was James B. Bonham Elementary on Henderson Avenue.
Late last night, a note from Abbey arrived in the in-box. He's heard all about the Dallas Independent School District's looking to close, or "consolidate," Bonham -- this, despite its status as one of the district's rare jewels without "academy" or "magnet" or "vanguard" in its title. Abbey sends this note:
Without a doubt James B. Bonham Elementary was the outstanding school I visited and researched. Their results over 10 years of above-state average results from a disadvantaged area are unheard of in Australia and the reason I invited the principal, Ms. Sandra Fernandez, and teacher mentor Mr. Rogelio Garcia to visit our school and conduct training sessions for two weeks with many other schools in July this year in Sydney, Australia.
James B. Bonham Elementary School is a lighthouse school of international best practices in quality teaching and learning. It must continue to provide the very best educational opportunities for its students and local community. It cannot be closed.
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He also dispatched his "Postcard from USA & Canada," in which he documented his visit. The first school about which he writes is Bonham, and he does so at great length. Read the missive on the other side.