Behind the Scenes at BCE
New year, new students, and new school in our neighborhood

By Claire Ramsay


In mid-2018, Fayette County Public Schools announced that our neighborhood would be getting a new elementary school in the Fall of 2019. And now, area students are preparing to walk through the doors for the first time at Brenda Cowan Elementary.

The big question on parents’ minds is, of course, “will it be completed in time for the students’ first day?!”

Construction is proceeding quickly, but as we toured the grounds in mid-July, a few finishing touches still needed to happen.

photo: man and woman smiling
Photo by Megan McCardwell/ HJ

As new Principal Joshua Williams and Assistant Principal Jessica Greene showed us around, you could feel their excitement for the new elementary school.

The construction team had just finished the flooring in the cafeteria and neither of them had seen it yet.

Greene was so impressed by the final product, she kept repeating “It looks so good!”

You could feel their pride and their commitment to making this the best elementary school FCPS has to offer.

Neither of them are new to “opening” schools. Both were around in different capacities when it came to opening the brand new high school in the Hamburg area, Frederick Douglass High School.

Principal Williams began his career in the early 2000s at Lafayette High School teaching world history and government.

Greene was the Director of Choral Activities and VPA (Visual and Performing Arts) teacher at Frederick Douglass High School.

photo: man smiling inside cafeteria
Photo by Megan McCardwell/ HJ

Williams remains inspired by being surrounded by young minds and the possibility of shaping them into something great.

He’s continuously amazed to meet “our young scholars,” saying, “They are all so eager to learn, explore, and question the world around them. There is nothing more fulfilling than watching an elementary student learn to read. Each day we have the opportunity to make an impact and change the trajectory of the lives of our students.”

Other than the school’s namesake, BCE is special to the community due to its four main pillars of education:

1. Arts Integration — Teaching the students through the lens of the arts. Through their special area they offer the same pathways as SCAPA. The special area and itinerant classes include Dance, Drama, Music, Piano Lab, Creative Writing, Art, Orchestra, Band.

2. Global Competency — Teaching the students to be aware of the world around them. Teaching the students how to appreciate and recognize the different cultures around us.

3. 3rd Grade Reading Pledge — The schools commitment to ensure that all of the students leave 3rd grade reading at or above grade level.

4. Service Leadership — Service to self and others.

Both Williams and Greene want to teach BCE students that it’s not always about numbers or letters, but students can also be taught through song or creative thinking.

“The arts routinely open a world of creativity through movement, song, and other forms of expression not always fostered through traditional educational methods,” says Greene. “Arts integration is an approach to teaching in which students can demonstrate
an understanding of core curriculum through an art form. This ability to create and connect allows students to internalize the value of what they are learning in all classrooms in a way that is meaningful and lasting.”

Some educators might find it nerve-racking or daunting when it comes to opening a new school, but not Williams.

photo: woman and man in front of school smiling
Photo by Megan McCardwell/ HJ

He saw this new elementary school as an opportunity to be part of something new. Williams took the position of principal because he wants to serve this community in the best way he knows how and also the idea of incorporating arts into the curriculum. With the first year at Brenda Cowan Elementary beginning, Williams is most excited about meeting the students and seeing his fellow teachers in action.

“Since being named the Principal, I have spent the majority of my time planning and preparing for a school that embraces the district’s mission. I have had the opportunity to meet and collaborate with a variety of great community stakeholders.”

With construction coming to a close and the final touches being added, Principal Williams’ favorite part about the school is….”EVERYTHING!”

He is most proud of the fact that the school was named after Brenda Cowan, the first black female Lieutenant in the fire department. “Naming the school after her was our unique way to honor and celebrate the life of Brenda and to recognize all the servicemen and women that put their lives on the line every day in service to others.”

He has had the privilege of meeting several firefighters who personally knew Brenda and they all spoke about how much she loved the kids and her commitment to service leadership.

It can be scary or stressful for students going to a new school.

Williams has one piece of advice for all incoming students, “I would encourage our students to take advantage of this opportunity to be actively engaged with other students and faculty who share the same interests and passions. We have a variety of opportunities for our students to be engaged from a plethora of clubs, extracurricular programs and organizations, to our arts focus and YMCA partnership.“

Brenda Cowan Elementary hosts a ribbon cutting for the community on Monday, August 12 at 10 am. This event features guest speakers from the fire department and family members of Brenda Cowan. School administration has asked that families park at Edythe J. Hayes Middle School, buses will shuttle to and from the ceremony. For questions, please call Heidi Reihing 859-381-4784

Hamburg Journal coverage and video will be available on our website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages.


Cover of Hamburg Journal August 2019 issueThis article also appears on page 11 of the August 2019 print edition of Hamburg Journal.

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