01/23/12 Usually having several people touring your school, talking to teachers, administrators, and support staff, sitting in on classrooms, and speaking to community members would make any principal uneasy; however, Riverside Intermediate Principal Donna Burroughs welcomed the “Indiana Schools To Watch” review team with open arms.
Burroughs submitted an application in 2011 to be included in those schools considered to compete for an award for excellence. After the school’s initial application was reviewed, it was passed on to become one of the schools qualifying for an on-site visit.
Burroughs said they first heard of the program thorough the Indiana Middle School Association. IMLEA was founded in 1992 from a Lilly Endowment. According to information provided by IMLEA, the main emphasis of the organization and institute is to provide grant dollars to middle level schools to fund staff development as well as other programs.
On January 18, reviewers converged on the school before the students arrived and stayed until well after the students left for the day. Interviewers included Randy Feola, Washington Twp. Middle School, Valparaiso – Teacher; Maureen Farag, Highland Middle School, Highland, Asst. Principal; Mark Anderson, Decatur Middle School, Indianapolis, Principal; and
Shirley Wright, Director of Indiana Middle Level Education Association.
After touring the entire school, the panel met with Plymouth business community partners including Plymouth Mayor Mark Senter; Plymouth Police Officer (DARE officer), Mark Owen; Fire Chief Andy Metsker; TCU Manager Beth Styers; 3-M Company representative, D.J. Fishbaugh; Mancino’s owner, Tony Gamble; and WTCA am1050 Radio and Pilot News reporter, Carol Anders. Wright said they use the community panel to understand how a school interacts with the community.
Burroughs said, “The steps in this award process fit right in with what we are trying to achieve at Riverside-teach the whole child.” Prior to the site visit, the staff had to complete a seven-page self-study and rating sheet meant to pinpoint areas of excellence to areas of need. The guide was divided into four categories: Academic Excellence, Developmental Responsiveness, Social Equity and Organizational Support and Processes.
Experts in education agree that the middle grades are critical for increasing achievement in high school. Information included in the program guide states, “When middle grades reform recommendations are implemented with consistency, over time we know middle grades schools can be powerful communities of learning.”
Riverside Intermediate is only in their sixth year of operation as a 5-6 grade building.