South Side Middle School honored for improvement

COLUMBIANA – An improvement in academics at South Side Middle School has been noticed by the state.

Principal David Buzzard was recently notified by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) the school has earned the honor of being named a School of Promise.

The honor was given to 163 schools across the state for the 2011-12 school year, and this marks the first time it has been earned at South Side.

Michael Sawyers, ODE acting superintendent of public instruction, said in the letter to Buzzard the honor was earned as a result of the staff’s work on closing the math and reading achievement gap for students.

“The strategies by you and your staff to close the mathematics and reading achievement gap for students who represent a range of socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds are working, and we hope you will share them with other Ohio schools,” he said.

Schools eligible for the honor are those that administer the Ohio Achievement and Ohio Graduation Tests, are recipients of ODE report cards, and serve 40 percent or more economically disadvantaged students.

Buzzard said the school was able to close the achievement gap through staff collaboration.

“Every teacher has a particular subject that they work really hard to have all of their kids excel in, but at the same time there is a good camaraderie (among them) that they help each other out. They collaborate and work together on things. That helps us have a well-rounded education,” he said.

He added that, unfortunately, some educators working to meet state testing requirements can get caught up in teaching their own subject and leave others out.

“With all the testing it’s easy for people to get in their own little world and not care about anything but their subject matter and what they are doing. To really have a good school and be successful you have to really be pulling the reins at the same time,” he said.

Superintendent Don Mook said the fact that the two subjects are on block scheduling likely plays a part.

The subjects are heavily weighted on the Ohio Achievement Test and giving students more class time in those areas has a “real significant impact,” he said.

But curriculum and scheduling aren’t the only parts, the school’s progress is also the result of the time and attention Buzzard, his staff, students and their parents put toward academics.

“The bottom line is that our students and parents are also dedicated to buy into the education process that goes on in our district. Without that it wouldn’t matter what program we put in place of what curriculum is there. You have to have parents that support and students that work hard,” he said.

Buzzard wished to give credit to Mook for being supportive of the district, to the teachers for working together and being professional and to the community for its support.

But most importantly, he credited the students.

“We’re proud of the accomplishment. It all starts with the kids. The kids work hard,” he said.

South Side will receive a School of Promise banner from the ODE to display on the building.