By: Isabella Carson
Tiffany Anderson knew that something needed to change in the Jennings School District in Missouri. Their test scores were some of the lowest in the country. Their attendance wasn’t much better. The students were failing and dropping out at alarming rates and the schools in the district were on the verge of losing their accreditation. When Anderson stepped into the role of superintendent in 2012 all of that changed, as well as the communities that the schools in the district served.
In the Jennings School District approximately 90% of the students are on the free or reduced lunch program. The parents were not as involved as Anderson would have liked by any means. There were always reasons such as doing laundry and grocery shopping. She wanted to take those reasons away so that the kids could have actively involved parents. She installed a washer and a dryer in every school. Parents could use these for free if they volunteered for an hour at the school. She also designated one of the school buildings for a food pantry. It has been up and running for a couple of years and helps to give out over 8,000 pounds of food to families in need every month. She also gives incentives such as free groceries and dinner during Parent Teacher meetings so that more parents are more willing to attend.
Anderson was recognized in 2015 as being one of the 16 most innovative educational leaders in the country. Her work and dedication has paid off in a big way. The community is much more involved with the schools and more parents are volunteering their time. They are more connected with the students at the schools and you can see the difference. The test scores have gone up. Attendance has increased dramatically. Anderson also led the way in opening a health clinic partnered with Washington University in Saint Louis. This clinics is available to students in the district for health issues including mental health. It is located in Jennings High School. Anderson is hoping that she can open a clinic for the entire community some day soon.