GMS to be showcased at conference

Published 1:28 pm Friday, June 7, 2013

Greenville Middle School has had one singular motto for the past few years.

Failure is not an option, neither for students nor administrators.

And after a series of trials and tribulations for the school in its struggle to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), Greenville Middle School has held true to that mantra and met those standards for two years running.

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Now, the school has received a new honor as one of only four middle schools chosen in the state to participate in this year’s Mega Conference, in which professional educators convene to exchange ideas about improving school systems across Alabama.

At this year’s conference, GMS administrators will showcase exactly how those goals were accomplished in the hopes of encouraging and inspiring other schools facing similar situations.

Greenville Middle School principal Curtis Black said that the first step in making a change for the better involved changing the culture and perception of the school itself.

“You can tell the culture of the school once you enter the doors, and that first impression is normally your lasting impression,” Black said.

“So we wanted to make sure that we changed the culture of our building, and the perception of how our students and employees felt.  Once we changed everyone’s mindsets, we started to lay our groundwork as far as academics is concerned.”

That groundwork, Black said, was built on the administrative decision to sit down and analyze precisely what the students of GMS need to be successful, and then providing the means for them to do so.

Whether that involved monitoring and critiquing the instruction of teachers during lessons, implementing an open-door policy for parents to offer insight on classroom procedure or asking students themselves on how to best improve the learning experience, improving GMS from the ground up has been a collaborative effort.

GMS counselor and assistant principal Kent McNaughton has been with the school for 19 years, and said that the formation of the Continuous Improvement Plan team, and the renewed focus on teacher input within the group, is a largely responsible for the school’s recent successes.

“It gives me a lot of pride, since I’ve been here through the ups and downs, to let the people in the community who are not here every day know that we are a successful school and that we are providing a quality education to the students that attend Greenville Middle School,” McNaughton said.

“Whenever you’re not meeting AYP, sometimes people in the community don’t realize that you do have a lot of successes, and that there was maybe one area you weren’t successful in.  So it’s nice to be able to tell people in the community, or really anywhere you go, that you’ve made tremendous strides in improving the areas that you were weak in the previous two to three years.”

Among those involved in propelling GMS to new heights is Butler County Schools superintendent Darren Douthitt, who was responsible for implementing programs that gave educators a firsthand view of some of the harsh circumstances that students in the surrounding areas deal with, such as a residential area tour of students served in Butler County.

“It was an eye-opener to pass through some of the communities and see some of the students standing around the street corners, or seeing homes without front doors,” Black said.

“You have to step back and learn your students because you never really understand what they’re faced with until you step in their shoes.”

Such an experience is indicative of the entire program’s spirit — improvement at GMS is as much of a learning opportunity for educators as it is for students.

GMS is slated to deliver its showcase on school improvement in Mobile at the Mega Conference on July 17.