Provided by Prince William County Schools (PWCS)
Two Prince William middle schools have been re-designated as Schools to Watch® in 2019. Lake Ridge Middle School was named for a second time and Saunders Middle School for the fifth time. Schools to Watch® is a nationally recognized, state-operated school evaluation program sponsored by the Virginia Middle Schools Association (VMSA) and National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform.
Schools to Watch® are recognized for having policies and systems in place that encourage academic excellence, social equitability, and responsiveness to the developmental needs of middle school students. Schools apply for this recognition, and a team of educators from across Virginia makes a site visit to observe lessons and programs, interview staff, and meet with parents and students. This committee makes a recommendation of their findings to the VMSA board, and designations as Schools to Watch® are awarded based on both the application and the findings.
“They saw that our classrooms at Saunders incorporate hands-on, collaborative, student-centered activities, and the committee praised our focus on student growth with such things such as Spartan Time and retakes,” said Sheila Huckestein, supervisor of strategic planning and school improvement and former principal of Saunders. “Our work to build relationships with students and to address misbehavior by providing reflection and workshops were also a big focus of the committee.”
Lake Ridge Principal Skyles Calhoun attributes their school’s re-designation as a School to Watch® in part to “all stakeholders striving to meet the needs of every student, every day.”
“Parents and other community members are welcomed, informed, and listened to through student-led parent conferences, multiple avenues of social media, real-time access to student academic information, the school advisory council, and regularly scheduled coffees with the principal,” said Calhoun.
As Schools to Watch®, Lake Ridge and Saunders Middle Schools will be model schools for middle-level instruction and support for students, staff, and community members. Both will be honored at the National Forum’s Annual Schools to Watch® Conference in Washington, D.C. this June.
Schools may apply for re-designation as Schools to Watch® every three years. Nine Prince William County middle schools have achieved this title since the program’s inception with eight currently holding the designation.
They are: Bull Run (2008, 2011, 2014, 2018), Gainesville (2014, 2017), Lake Ridge (2014, 2019), Marsteller (2005, 2008, 2012, 2017), Saunders (2004, 2007,2010, 2015, 2019) and Woodbridge (2009, 2012, 2015, 2018) Middle Schools; and Pennington (2011, 2014, 2017) and Porter Traditional Schools (2010, 2013, 2016).