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Southmoreland Middle School earns national recognition

| Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

Southmoreland Middle School has received national recognition.

The school was one of 10 in the country recently honored as a Breakthrough School through the National Association of Secondary School Principals, in conjunction with MetLife.

“I am honored to be a part of this district and the school,” said Vince Mascia, middle school principal. “It's just a great award and a testament to the hard work of our faculty and the quality of kids we have.”

The Breakthrough program was established in 2007 and recognizes middle schools and high schools that serve large numbers of students living in poverty and are displaying high-achieving or dramatically improving student achievement. At least 40 percent of the students must be eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.

“As poverty increases, schools are being called upon to do much more beyond academics. They're addressing student health needs, emotional needs, social needs,” said Josephine Franklin, associate director of research and informational resources for the group. “These are the people that have found a way, despite all the challenges, to have their students achieve consistently at high levels.”

Franklin said criteria for the award are based on a school's documented success in three core areas: collaborative leadership, personalization, and curriculum, instruction and assessment.

Mascia said students were told of the achievement Nov. 15.

“Kids were applauding. They were congratulating everyone,” Mascia said. “It's the recognition of a journey we've taken. ... It's been a long journey. It's appropriate and fitting. All the hard work is being recognized. We really are trying to provide the best education we can for our kids.”

Southmoreland was one of 154 schools across the country that applied for the award.

The middle school will receive a $5,000 grant. It will be profiled in the association's national magazine, honored at NASSP's national conference in Maryland Feb. 28-March 2 and featured on the association's website.

Representatives from the principals group visited the school Sept. 27 for an evaluation.

“Kids were approached and asked questions and they were very direct and genuine,” Mascia said. “It's something they're living and experiencing on a daily basis. That's one thing (representatives) were impressed with.”

Southmoreland Middle School is only the second Pennsylvania school to receive the honor and the first public school in the state to be recognized. Franklin Towne Charter High School in Philadelphia received the honor in 2010.

“We're proud to be one of 10 schools in the nation to receive such an honor,” said Southmoreland Superintendent John Molnar. “We can attribute this to collaborative culture established many years ago in that building. We have had very, very strong leaders in that building.

“The teachers deserve a lot of credit, the students deserve a lot of credit, the parents and families deserve a lot of credit. It's a great feather in the cap of the community and shows the value families place on education here.”

Paul Paterra is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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