Last summer, Curry Middle School Principal Barry Wilson informed not only his teachers about a new program he wanted to implement at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, but he also informed and asked for support from the community’s businesses, churches and parents.
“I went around to the community businesses here, as well as some of the churches, and just kind of asked them what their perception of the school was, what they thought the role and responsibility of the school was. Then, after that, I asked them to tell me what they thought their role was to the school,” Wilson said. “FINISH is our school-wide initiative, and the purpose of that was to finish things that we start and not to settle for average.”
Wilson became the principal at CMS over the summer taking the place of former principal David Hendon, who was retiring at that time. Wilson wanted more than just a commitment from the area’s residents regarding the school, he wanted to see their works in action.
He sent letters to surrounding businesses and churches, saying, “Our society has become relaxed and has allowed people to give up and not finish what they have started. ... things may be tough and challenging, but they cannot give up.” He encouraged business leaders and residents to become more aware by helping to create and maintain partnerships with the schools, adding that all three schools will be working closer together to form transition partnerships which will “improve student success, as well as improving student relationships through mentoring, tutoring, etc.”
Wilson has spent 16 years in education, teaching and coaching at Curry Middle his first 12 years before becoming the assistant principal at Cordova High School for a little more than two years.
While he was a teacher and coach at CMS his first go around, Wilson said he noticed how students were just settling for average. They weren’t planning major goals for their future and not finishing what they had started.
“Despite what kind of home life they may have, my goal was to give them a reason to want to come to school, a reason to actually finish and graduate,” Wilson said. “For them to be successful in life, I just felt like it was very important to stress to them the importance of finishing things, as well as us providing them chances to be involved in the school, to have input, increase student and teacher morale here.”
The three main areas Wilson said he noticed, after viewing the school’s numbers and data, that needed improving were attendance, discipline and community involvement. In order to boost those areas of concern, Wilson established Principal’s Pride. This program is “designed to help boys in the sixth through eighth grades in the areas of etiquette, motivation, responsibility, soft skills and transition,” according to a brochure provided by Wilson.
“I targeted kids that were potential discipline and attendance problems. ... Many of our students don’t have proper modeling and etiquette skills,” Wilson said. “We’re looking to expand the Principal’s Pride next year to more ownership into the school functions, as well as our other clubs, being more involved in the process.”
The program seeks to keep young male students from “slipping through the cracks.” Wilson invited 32 students from CMS to join Principal’s Pride, but 26 decided to participate. Some of those students who are now members in the program spoke last week about how Principal’s Pride has helped them.
“It’s helped me improve in responsibility and being active in the school,” said seventh-grader Michael Keeton Rosskuriger. “I’m getting into trouble less.”
“I like the club, and it helps me with responsibility and helps me to be more active,” added Rosskuriger’s classmate, 12-year-old Cory Mason Fuller. “It makes me feel like I’m actually doing something in school and actually being a part of something.”
Others who are also participants in Principal’s Pride include eighth-grade students Dalton Robbins, Logan Thornton and Daniel Tyler. The boys said the program has taught them to be more courteous toward others and take charge of their lives.
“It has helped me be more responsible and feel like more a part of the school,” said Thornton.
Tyler added, “It’s helped me trust the school and helped me to respect others.”
“It’s helped me trust the school, and it helps me give more respect to other people,” Robbins said, agreeing with his classmates.
Other programs that have fallen under the umbrella of the school-wide FINISH initiative include upgrading the school’s technology and undergoing the process of being a Blue Ribbon School.
Wilson said every teacher in the school has a set of clickers (a student response system), a SMART board, an Elmo (a technological teaching tool), an iPad and class sets of iPads and Dell tablets. Projects that have been started around the school include an updated look in the foyer, which had started the year before but was finished under Wilson’s leadership.
A couple of years ago, Curry Middle School started the Blue Ribbon School process, which acknowledges schools where students perform at very high levels or where noticeable improvements are being made in students' academic achievement. Wilson said his assistant principal, Thomas Kyzer, is the one who has been instrumental in the Blue Ribbon process and that they are looking at possibly completing it within the next year.
“None of this would’ve been possible if the teachers and the faculty didn’t help because they’re with them more than I am. I try to be in the classroom as much as I can, but other duties cause me not to be in there as much as I would like,” Wilson said. “But again, the teachers gave me a lot of ideas that we’ve incorporated into FINISH, but they’ve really been involved in it and they’ve really helped it get going.”