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South Allegheny celebrates 'School to Watch' honor

| Saturday, May 12, 2012, 8:15 a.m.
Presenting a 'schools to watch' banner to South Allegheny Middle School Friday are, from left, Ryan Hardesty of Blackhawk Middle School, Marianne Konior of DuBois Area Middle School, Vicki Korinko of Horace Mann and Rick Ford of Blackhawk. At right is state Schools To Watch director Paul Meck. Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News

It's been a noteworthy week for South Allegheny Middle School.

First it won a $100,000 fitness center. Then on Friday it received a banner honoring its re-designation as a Pennsylvania Don Eichorn "School to Watch."

Since 2009 it has had an honor shared with only 25 other Keystone State schools.

For the next three years it will share an honor achieved by eight other schools, as a repeat winner in a judging sponsored by Horace Mann insurance, the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the Pennsylvania Middle School Association and four universities.

Duquesne, Lehigh, Edinboro and Shippensburg all contribute to Pennsylvania's Don Eichorn program. It in turn is one of 19 state "schools to watch" programs across the nation.

"We are definitely better than we were three years ago," principal Lisa N. Duval said as she accepted the banner at a ceremony featuring the middle school's band and individual honors for two of her students.

Eighth-grader Falco Muscante and seventh-grader Aubri Swank each received Joan Jerrett Outstanding Middle School Student awards from the Pennsylvania Middle School Association.

Falco was cited, among other things, for being an honor student throughout his time in South Allegheny schools, while Aubri's achievements include a perfect math score on the Pennsylvania System of School Achievement tests."We have to complete a pretty rigorous application process," Duval said.

"We're looking for clear evidence that you're doing what you say you do," said Paul Meck, state director of the Schools to Watch program. "To show that these things are happening on a regular basis."

The students, faculty and staff of South Allegheny Middle School were so willing to show such things that they put the proof into a music video that drew on a Lady Gaga hit.

Her "Born This Way" became "Taught This Way."

"We're learning in our own way," the middle school's version goes. "We rock the PSSAs. We're on the right track, yea, we were taught this way."

Duval said South Allegheny's path to redesignation involved a leadership team, also featuring seventh-grade reading teacher Bri Grayson, guidance counselor Kristy Roche, response to intervention teacher Ashleigh Hays, middle school learning support staffer Andrea Kirchner, eighth-grade math teacher Shannon DeMarco and careers and technology teacher Jennifer Cleary.

A reception in the school library capped Friday's celebration.

The event was the second statewide honor for South Allegheny this week. Earlier, South Allegheny learned that it was getting a $100,000 fitness center for being a "national champion school," courtesy of the National Foundation for Governors' Fitness Councils.

It was one of three winners in Pennsylvania and 12 nationwide. Gov. Tom Corbett cited South Allegheny and two other schools in an appearance in Berks County Tuesday with Body by Jake Global LLC founder Jake Steinfeld.

Each school was chosen for its dedication to physical fitness and the wellness of the student body. The new equipment will be built over the summer and ready to use when students return in the fall.

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