A LITTLE HELP FROM FRIENDS
Gary Reaves reports
DALLAS - Located in one of the lowest income neighborhoods in Dallas, Fannin Elementary School recently achieved the highest academic rating the state can give.
While the credit first goes to the hard work of the students and staff, they did have some outside help from a program called "Partners in Education."
One key to the success was test data that was used to pinpoint students' weaknesses and plot paths to progress.
Principal Linda Trujillo said another key factor were lawyers from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, which adopted the school.
Dan Micciche, a partner at the firm, can almost see Fannin Elementary from his downtown high-rise.
"They are a school that has 99 percent of the students on the school lunch program," he said. "It's a school that was really in need of some assistance."
The firm started first with the school's basic needs.
"Akin Gump asked us what we needed in the library," said Mary Aguero, a librarian at the school. "They raised about $3,000 and we bought a lot of non-fiction books."
But, they went beyond money to help students firsthand. Over the last four years, more than a dozen lawyers have showed up at the school weekly to serve as tutors and mentors.
"Once he comes in the classroom, he just works with them," said Sylvia Campbell, a Fannin teacher, of one of the lawyers.
Trujillo said it has been the consistency that has counted.
"A lot of it is emotional," she said. "The children love having someone come work with them every week because they see it as someone to come see me."
"For a school that has the highest poverty level to reach the highest academic status is really a tremendous accomplishment," Micciche said.
The lawyers celebrated by giving every student a new T-shirt that reads "Fannin Rocks" on the back.