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Charleroi Middle School recognized by state program

| Thursday, May 9, 2013, 8:15 a.m.

As a School to Watch, Charleroi Middle School is in rare company.

It is only one of four schools in Pennsylvania to receive the designation.

On Wednesday at the school, the education community was applauding.

“You are the driving force,” school board President Ken Wiltz said. “You are setting the bar, setting us in the right direction for future kids coming to the middle school.”

The auditorium played host to a redesignation celebration as students and teachers, as well as administrators in and out of the district, took turns crediting each other.

The Pennsylvania Don Eichhorn Schools: Schools to Watch program is a partnership among the Pennsylvania Association for Middle Level Education, Pennsylvania Department of Education, Duquesne University, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania and the Horace Mann Companies. The program is the state affiliate of the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform's National Schools to Watch program.

Teachers, administrators and students spoke about the four criteria for judging schools in the program:

•Academic Excellence — High-performing schools with middle grades are academically excellent. They challenge all students to use their minds well.

• Developmental Responsiveness — High-performing schools with middle grades are sensitive to the unique developmental challenges of early adolescence.

• Social Equity — High-performance schools with middle grades are socially equitable, democratic and fair. They provide every student with high-quality teachers, resources, learning opportunities, and support. They keep positive options open for all students.

• Organizational Structures and Processes — High-performing schools with middle grades are learning organizations that establish norms, structures and organizational arrangements to support and sustain their trajectory toward excellence.

Superintendent Dr. Brad Ferko said, “This is truly a celebration about you, the middle school students and staff.”

Dr. Robert L. Furman, executive faculty school of education, school administration and supervision/foundations, noted the upward trajectory of improvements the middle school has made since it was first named a School to Watch in 2010.

He said the Schools to Watch committee has put its STAMP of approval on the middle school. STAMP is an acronym for students, teachers, administrators, mission and parents.

Eighth grade student Alexis Weber spoke about academic excellence, pointing to educational strategies used by teachers ranging from tutoring to homework clubs.

Class of 2013 valedictorian Ian Whiten urged the students to be dedicated and set goals.

“Remember also that everyone is born with a purpose,” Whiten said. “Uniqueness sets you apart. It makes you different. It's what helps you to do well and be successful.”

Kelly Goedel, of the 21 Century Program, said the middle school approach helps students have structure, teaches students to learn about themselves and keeps them physically active and academically challenged.

Life science teacher Howard Johnson was recognized for receiving the 2013 Carnegie Science Award.

He said the criteria of social equity involves judging a school on its practice of staying together, working together and fair play, with no bias or unfairness.

“That sounds very much like our middle school,” Johnson said.

Johnson said his award “validates that we are doing something right and doing the best for our students.”

Seventh-grader Sierra Short said the middle school was named a School to Watch “due to the vision of our principal, staff and administration.”

Dr. Patricia Gennari, consulting staff member for the Consortium for Public Education, credited the teachers for aggressively seeking competitive grants to improve the educational experience, such as construction of a greenhouse.

Washington County Commissioner Harlan Shober presented Principal Mary Tickner with a certificate of recognition from the county.

“Here at Charleroi Middle School, you have once again proved that with this concept, the dedication of the administration and the teaching staff, and just as important with the cooperation and participation of all of you, the students and your families, quality education is alive and well in Washington County,” Shober said.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or