Centennial Middle School submitted an innovation plan to the board of education seeking approval for an additional three years to the school’s plan. The board approved Resolution 01-2021 after listening to a presentation about CtMS being named a Colorado School to Watch for the second time.
The Innovation Schools Act provides schools and districts a path to design and implement innovative ideas and practices to better meet students’ needs and obtain waivers from existing state and local policies and procedures that inhibit the ability to execute new educational approaches.
CtMS’ innovation plan has three elements that work collectively to support student achievement: quality teaching, rigorous curriculum and character-based education.
Joseph Simo, CtMS principal, is proud of the staff who continue to invest in their innovation plan.
“Centennial staff are amazing and go above and beyond to educate our students,” he said. “We value making student relationships and giving our students every opportunity to learn.”
CtMS is one of 15 schools in Colorado and 450 across the country that received the distinction. This distinction is given every three years and can be renewed if the school meets the criteria.
Members from the Colorado Association of Middle-Level Educators (CAMLE) visit the school to check four criteria: academic excellence (students engage in high levels of critical thinking), developmental responsiveness (staff ensure students meet high levels of academic excellence through multiple activities), social equity (all students are included to create a strong sense of belonging) and strong organizational structure (administrative and staff support for students).
Simo said the site visit was an intense and rigorous process.
“They review many deserving middle schools across the state and select only a few schools to complete a site visit,” he said. “CAMLE’s site team looks under every stone, talks to every student, staff, and parent to see if the school is deserving to be a Colorado School to Watch.”
David Baker led the site visit this year and shared a few words with the board about what he saw and heard.
“I have to saw that it’s truly coming home to Centennial and Montrose being one of the original Centennial Explorers,” Baker said. “We got to see the quality experience students are receiving and getting to see the criteria really being brought to life for the students in Montrose. Centennial truly is a school to watch.”
Baker said parents talked about the family atmosphere at the school, students shared about being united in learning even though they are a diverse population and teachers talked about working together to make intentional differences for students.
The school enrolls 566 students in grades six through eight. The Colorado Schools to Watch website provides information about the trailblazer schools, highlighting what makes each school special.
“Within a challenging and joyful learning environment where relationships come first, Centennial Middle School leverages quality teaching, character education and a rigorous curriculum to inspire a lifetime of learning,” the site reads.
Simo said the school learned of their selection as a school to watch in early spring of 2020 but had little time to celebrate as a school family.
“It was a great honor to learn that Centennials students’ and staffs’ hard work was recognized in the State of Colorado for a second time,” he said. “We had only about two weeks to celebrate as a school before we had to go remote due to COVID-19.”
CtMS was previously recognized as a school to watch in 2017.
President of CAMLE Sheila Pottorff also announced Simo would serve on the board to represent Western Colorado.
The accolades for CtMS were recognized by the Colorado Department of Education also, which designated Centennial as a School of Innovation.
Within the board packet information, there was data from the past four years about CtMS students’ academic growth in English/language arts and math from a state, district and school-specific level.
CtMS staff were surveyed about whether or not they would like the school to continue to be a school of innovation. 38 staff members (95%) chose yes and two staff members (5%) chose no.
The school board approved CMS’ innovation plan under the Innovation Schools Act and will review the school’s progress annually. Progress will also be reported to the Colorado Department of Education.