Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

March 4, 2014

ISTEP pep rally boosts Cougar confidence

By Amanda Browning Daily News
Greensburg Daily News

---- — WESTPORT – South Decatur Elementary School (SDES) held a pep rally Friday to boost students’ confidence before ISTEP testing commences this week.

SDES Principal Kara Holdsworth enlisted the help of the South Decatur High School (SDHS) Pep Band and cheerleaders to make the event memorable for students. The band played lively tunes as the students filed into the gymnasium Friday afternoon. SDES teachers and staff wore identical t-shirts bearing a message to “Push it to the Limit,” and excitement was palpable among students as the bleachers filled with the occupants of the school.

In addition, Decatur County Community Schools Superintendent Johnny Budd was in attendance, offering a message of encouragement to the school. Budd said he believed the students were ready to take the tests and bring the school’s overall grade back to an “A.” Budd believes so much he offered the top ten students showing growth on the test a chance to smash a pie in Holdsworth’s face.

A shocked principal quickly commandeered the microphone and volunteered Budd to share her pie-riddled fate.

Videos created by SDES staff member Casey Bolton and the SDES chapter of the National Elementary Honor Society offered useful study tips to students, as well as warning of behaviors that could lead to being unprepared for the test. Through the videos, the students learned that a good night’s sleep, a balanced breakfast and confidence were some of the things that would help the most for test day.

Holdsworth welcomed all the students and professed her confidence that the students were ready. She said the students have worked very hard all year long. In addition to those taking ISTEP, third grade students will be taking IREAD tests and second grade will be taking Terra Nova. Holdsworth praised the honor society members for the creative videos, encouraging students to use the tips provided.

“The tips that you’re seeing are not just test taking tips for those kind of tests, it could be for your reading test or your spelling test or your math test,” Holdsworth said. “Just relax and be the very best you can be.”

Pep band and cheerleader participation was frequent, getting the entire assembly energized and ready to face testing head on. Students and staff even joined in for a cheer, chanting, “ISTEP, ISTEP! We’re gonna beat ISTEP!” right along with cheerleaders.

The whole school joined in for a rousing version of the South Decatur school song, which students have been learning in music class.

The SDES student council did a cheer with study tips for students, advising them to get sleep, eat breakfast, read carefully, take their time, do their best, and believe in themselves.

The teachers and staff comically recreated the lyrics to “Ice Ice Baby” into a test themed “ISTEP Baby!”

In addition to the video, the teachers and staff took to the floor for a special flash mob dance to “Push it to the Limit” by Corbin Bleu. The stands were filled with screaming, excited students loving their educators’ willingness to make themselves look a little silly to encourage them and make a special memory.

Students were dismissed soon after, leaving the gym full of energy and confidence. Assistant principal Debbie Reynolds told the Daily News that the pep rally was just part of a long lead up to test day preparation.

Bulletin boards bearing positive messages for students have been hanging around the school for weeks. According to Reynolds, when students walk past, they see the messages and are reminded that the whole school believes in them. SDES also purchased pencils with encouraging messages for all students in kindergarten through sixth grade because each grade has testing of some kind.

Holdsworth said this was the third year for the pep rally, which is meant to encourage students and give them the extra confidence to take their tests. She said the school staff spent two to three weeks getting everything together.

Holdsworth extended her gratitude to the students and staff, who all worked hard through the year to be ready for the test. She also thanked Casey Bolton, who made the videos, the school board members and Superintendent Budd.

“We wanted to encourage our students and give them some test taking tips on things that will help them do their very best on ISTEP. We had the entire school involved in making sure that we allow the students to know that we support them and that we are 100 percent behind them as they take ISTEP and IREAD and Terra Nova,” Principal Holdsworth said. “We want to let the kids have fun and just want to calm their nerves. We wanted to do something fun and let them know that we like to have fun too.”

Assistant Principal Reynolds echoed the sentiment, saying, “We want our students to do the best they can; we don’t want them to worry about it or stress about it. So we wanted to, as a staff, encourage them.”

Reynolds was thrilled with the level of student involvement in the pep rally, praising students for taking the initiative and making the pep rally special.

“From the band to the cheerleaders, the honor society and the student council- the kids ran most of it, which is what I wanted because it was for them, but I wanted it to be important to them,” Reynolds said. “We love our kids here and we feel very strongly that if we don’t tell the positive story of our school, nobody will.”

Contact: Amanda Browning 812-663-3111 x7004;