Principal Doug Eschemen is a man with a plan at Mary Covillaud Elementary School

January 23, 2018 GMT

For more than a quarter century, Mary Covillaud Elementary School has been serving the underserved, and now the school is a top performer, said Principal Doug Eschemen, citing the California School Dashboard.

The California School Dashboard is an online tool that shows how educational agencies and schools are performing on state and local indicators included in California’s school accountability system, which is part of the California Department of Education.

“Some of the students go through a lot and we’re very proud of how they’re doing,” Eschemen said. “The only other school that outperformed us is in Elk Grove and they have a very different demographic.”

The report looks at mathematics, English language arts, English learner progress, suspension rate and chronic absenteeism.

For the fall of 2017, Covillaud received the highest possible marks for math and English language arts. English learner progress marks were a step down from the highest with a lower middle mark for suspension rate. Chronic absenteeism numbers were measured at the school.

“What it doesn’t show is how we’ve helped meet the academic needs of the kids,” Eschemen said. “Once they’re no longer hungry and cold, you can actually teach them regardless of what’s happening at home.”

The report states that of the 527 enrolled students, Covillaud has 78.9 percent socially disadvantaged students and 18 percent are English learners.

He said they achieved the high marks after implementing a program called the Professional Learning Community.

“It was started by a guy from Illinois and it asks four questions,” Eschemen said. “What do learners need to learn? How are you going to assess it? What are you going to do with the assessment? What do you do with the kids that excel and the kids that need intervention?”

He said a coalition was created at the school that’s comprised of a lead teacher at every grade level to implement the program.

“Instead of teaching to 35 students, you narrow it down and make it more focused,” Eschemen said. “We’ve had growth in learning and attendance and they’re flourishing.”

Eschemen, who has been the principal for 21 years, knows that many of the area’s children are homeless, precariously housed and works to create opportunities at the school that address that.

“There was a clothes closet here before I got here where people would donate jackets and we’d give them to the children that needed them,” Eschemen said. “Now, about $25,000 to $35,000 worth of clothing goes through there each year.”

He said a pair of siblings that were recently students at the school were having some trouble performing at their grade level but now, they’re doing well.

“There was a behavior issue with one child when they got here and now they help keep the peace with other students,” Eschemen said. “We got them bikes for Christmas and it was too small for one of them so they gave it away to another kid at the school.”

Eschemen said that’s one of the recent success stories at the school and it’s something that’s been a part of his career in education for a long time.

“I realized long ago that I have a heart for these kids and that I could take care of their physical needs, which makes it much easier to teach them,” Eschemen said.

He was initially a teacher at Covillaud for nine years before an opportunity presented itself that sharpened his focus.

“I started about 24 years ago when I became a liaison for the district,” Eschemen said. “I went to the Salvation Army Depot and hotels visiting with families and trying to get them involved.”

Eschemen was the liaison for about a year before becoming the vice principal at Yuba Gardens for about a year and has been at Covillaud ever since.