People in the Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Local School District have always known Bellbrook Middle School was a special place. That was no more evident than earlier in February when it was redesignated as a 2022-23 Ohio School to Watch by the Ohio Department of Education in partnership with the National Forum to Advance Excellence in Middle Grades.
BMS was one of only two schools to receive the distinction this year and earned the designation because of the hard work the staff has put into creating a positive, academically challenging school environment for the students. Officially, the school was ranked on four foundational criteria: Academic Excellence, Developmental Responsiveness, Social Equity and Organizational Structures and Processes.
“It is great to be recognized and it shows we are on the right path when it comes to middle school education,” Bellbrook Middle School principal Jeff Eckley said. “It confirms what we already knew. We have an amazing staff doing great things for kids.”
Ohio Schools to Watch Reaching for the Stars is a program that seeks to recognize diverse, high-performing, growth-oriented middle-level schools to demonstrate what all middle-level schools are capable of achieving.
“It is really nice to get that recognition for all the work the staff and the students do,” BMS Assistant Principal Jenna Hill said.
Schools to Watch® is an initiative launched by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform in 1999. Through the Schools to Watch initiative, the National Forum identifies schools across the United States that are well on their way to meeting the Forum's four criteria for high-performing, middle-level schools.
The middle school hosted the group for a walk-through tour in early February. During that walkthrough, members of the committee from the state spoke with central office staff, teachers, students, parents and support staff.
Some of the comments the group gathered during that time included:
“The teachers are very supportive, always willing to help.”
“Of all of the schools in our district, the Middle School always seems to be the leaders in instruction.”
“There is a strong, positive culture in the building.”
“Everyone is so welcoming; the administrators always have an open door.”
“This is a destination district.”
The district started this process in October, filling out forms and doing committee work to consider their own assessments, processes and scheduling.
The committee came to visit on a Wednesday and by the following Monday, the administration had been informed of the redesignation with a score of 22.6 out of 24.
“The other nice thing they did was offer suggestions for improvement,” Eckley said. “They take a look at out overall educational program and analyze it and let us know how we stacked up against other middle schools. That can be really helpful.”
Bellbrook will be recognized at a National Conference this summer in Washington D.C. In addition, the school will receive state recognition through the Ohio Department of Education’s Schools To Watch program. This is the fourth time Bellbrook has received this designation.