ShareThis Page

Pine-Richland Middle School earns accolades

| Monday, May 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Submitted | Pine Creek Journal
Seventh graders Tyler Goncz, Nick Berexa and Jake Betush await for an assembly to start in celebration of Pine-Richland Middle School being re-designated as a School to Watch.
Submitted | Pine Creek Journal
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, Pine-Richland Interim Superintendent Dr. David Foley, eighth Grade Class President Abby Hinson and middle school Principal David Kristofic take time for a photo.

Educators could learn lessons from Pine-Richland Middle School.

Its academics, fairness, organization and responsiveness to adolescents' needs make it a “School to Watch,” according to the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform.

Pine-Richland Middle School is one of only two Pennsylvania schools to earn the recognition — for a third time. The other school is DuBois Area Middle School in Clearfield County.

“They are at the top,” said Bruce Vosburgh, director of the Don Eichhorn Schools: Schools to Watch program of the Pennsylvania Association for Middle Level Education.

The late Don Eichhorn, former assistant superintendent of Upper St. Clair School District, established the first U.S. middle schools: Fort Couch Middle School and Boyce Middle School, both in Upper St. Clair.

Bursts of ear-busting applause and cheers filled the gym on April 30 when Vosburgh visited Pine-Richland Middle School to present a 5-foot, beige banner proclaiming the school's re-designation as a “school to watch.”

Pine-Richland Middle School also earned the designation — valid for three years — in 2007 and 2010.

The school's teachers are tops, according to Abby Hinson, 14, president of the school's eighth-grade class.

“Every day, it's really visible that they care about their job,” Abby said. “They always go the extra mile to make sure everyone fully understands, and they they'll answer any question. They'll even give up their lunch periods to do extra help.”

Classmate Hunter Baxter, 14, praised the cooperation between students and teachers at Pine-Richland Middle School.

“Our teachers help the students and our students help the teachers, whenever we can,” he said. “We try to do the best we can every day. We try to get better and learn from our mistakes. So that makes us the best school that we can be.”

Eighth-grader Rita Lakhssassi, 13, talked about the “good” environment at Pine-Richland Middle School.

“Everyone has such good friends here,” Rita said.

Classmate Isabella Sanz, 13, praised the school's comfort level.

“It's just fun,” she said. “We have a lot of fun.”

Principal David Kristofic echoed the students' views.

“I'm fortunate to work here,” he said. “It's a great place.”

Kristofic annually welcomes outside educators interested in Pine-Richland Middle School's teaching methods.

“They come here to see how we do things,” Kristofic said.

Kristofic cited ‘teaming,' for example, as a teaching method that draws visits from outside educators.

At Pine-Richland Middle School, for example, separate teams of four and five teachers instruct assigned groups of about 120 seventh- and eighth-graders — rather than all 380 students in either grade. That allows each teacher to better know and help his or her students, according to Kristofic.

Schools can apply for a School to Watch designation through the Pennsylvania Association of Middle Level Education.

Examiners from a state team of 85 educators then visit selected schools to assess the schools' ongoing improvement in academic excellence, developmental responsiveness, social equity, and organizational structures and processes.

The Don Eichhorn Schools: Schools to Watch program “seeks to recognize a small number of diverse, high performing, growth-oriented middle grades schools to demonstrate what all middle grades schools are capable of achieving,” according to the online site of the Pennsylvania Association for Middle Level Education (PAMLE).

Pine-Richland Middle School is a one of 33 currently designated “schools to watch” in Pennsylvania. It also is one of 334 such schools in 19 states, said Vosburgh.

“The schools challenge all students to use their minds well,” Vosburgh said. “They are schools that are democratic and fair.”

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.