Submitted by Shane Mauldin, McKinney ISD
A group of McKinney ISD administrators and teachers gathered around a table in the Scott Johnson Middle School library last Tuesday and waited — confident, but eager to receive the final word. In a few moments, a trio of evaluators from Advancement Via Individual Determination’s (AVID) validation team would sit across from them and share the committee’s decision.
At the same time, in the school’s cafeteria, nearly 200 Scott Johnson Middle School AVID students were assembled — with a celebratory cake waiting in the wings — in anticipation of the announcement. After a full day of interviews, presentations and classroom visits, these students and their teachers were anxious to learn whether their hard work over the last few years had been enough to earn their campus the title of AVID Demonstration School, a distinction enjoyed by only five percent of all AVID school sites.
Back in the library, the AVID validation team had arrived to report their recommendation.
“Tiger pride is alive and well at Scott Johnson Middle School,” they said. “It is evident that the school-wide culture promotes college readiness. Students model perseverance, respect, integrity, determination and excellence in every way. And, as a result of that, we came to the conclusion that Scott Johnson Middle School should be validated for three years.”
Scott Johnson Middle School had joined McKinney North High School and Evans Middle School as a McKinney ISD AVID demonstration school. It was the news that everyone had hoped for, and the students in the cafeteria erupted in cheers when they received word of the decision. The cake was wheeled out, and the celebration began.
A three-year AVID Demonstration School validation is the highest level attainable and an indication that Scott Johnson Middle School is a cut above.
Ben Solomon, a Program Manager for AVID and member of the validation team talked about what impressed him about Scott Johnson Middle School. “We have a lot of good AVID schools across the country,” he said, “but what makes Johnson stand out from some of the others is just how affected not only the AVID students are — and the AVID students are a huge part of the school — but really every student here on the campus. There is a culture among the faculty and the students of pride, of character-building, of college-going and just pursuing excellence that really helps Johnson stand apart from the other good schools that are out there.”
AVID Demonstration Schools play a vital role in helping campuses nationwide who are interested in starting their own AVID program or who may be struggling with implementation of the program already in place. Attaining Demonstration School status is no easy task; there are only about 125 of them worldwide.
“To be recognized as an AVID Demonstration School is the culmination of hard work, dedication and a strong belief in the potential of our students over many years,” said Marita Cleaver, Coordinator of Advanced Academics for McKinney ISD.
“It takes a minimum of three to four years to be named an AVID Demonstration School,” she said. “Only schools with strong leadership and a staff who are dedicated to student college-readiness and success can pass the rigorous criteria it takes to earn this badge of honor in the educational world.”
Particularly impressive to the validation team was Scott Johnson’s success at engaging students in the AVID program; over the last five years, the number of participants has doubled. The team also cited the school’s commitment to strong math support, a pervasive culture of college-readiness and character-building and AVID students’ involvement in school and community activities.
Superintendent Dr. J.D. Kennedy praised the ongoing commitment to student success found at Scott Johnson Middle School. “This recognition — and earning the maximum validation extension — just reinforces the Breakthrough School award that Scott Johnson received last year from MetLife and NASSP.”
“It’s just exciting to see the continued recognition for the hard work of the teachers and the staff here in this school,” Kennedy said. “They do a tremendous job, and they do whatever it takes to see to it that students learn on their campus. This recognition just reinforces what they do on a day to day basis.”
Principal Mitch Curry sees that commitment to success first-hand each day, both in his teachers and his students. “The students at Scott Johnson are inspiring to me. I am so proud of their accomplishments,” he said.
“AVID sponsors Jennifer Zornes and Valerie Morrow give the students the ultimate gift, that of hope — hope that they too can become something great,” he said.
“The whole staff really deserves recognition for this honor, as this is a campus recognition as well as a community acknowledgement. When you are around such a dynamic staff, student and parent population, you feel as if you can accomplish anything. Our kids can reach the moon if they choose to!”