Bullying sign in Kennett Middle

This sign in the hallway of Kennett Middle School reminds students that bullying is not acceptable.

KENNETT SQUARE—For the fourth time in nine years, Kennett Middle School (KMS) has been designated as a Pennsylvania “School to Watch” (STW). Since 1999, the STW committee has sought to recognize middle-grades schools that exemplify or exceed specific researched-based criteria that advance student achievement.

KMS is one of five schools in the commonwealth to have been re- designated three separate times and while the distinction is certainly a culminating award, it’s also a unique challenge that the KMS administration takes seriously.

Unlike other awards, the STW designation requires schools to focus on specific areas for continual improvement thus requiring a level of growth before a redesignation is granted. It’s the continual growth of KMS that is perhaps the largest point of pride for building principal Dr. Lorenzo DeAngelis. “Schools to Watch gives us a bit of a roadmap,” stated DeAngelis. “We

look at our strengths and our future considerations and use them as fuel to take the next step on being a better middle school for our community.” Such dedication to student achievement speaks to a certain culture at KMS that is hard to miss, even in the depths of a pandemic.

Like many schools across the nation, KMS was virtual from March 2020 until initiating a hybrid model on Jan. 11. The difficulties of both modes of instruction have undoubtedly tested the resolve of the staff and the administration, yet the pandemic has not interrupted the focus of teachers or softened their effectiveness. The STW committee emphasizes this point in their final report, too.

KMS has so deeply invested themselves in adopting new modes of instruction, utilizing emerging technologies, and focusing on the dynamic nature of student learning that the challenges of the past year have actually highlighted the strengths of KMS. This is not to imply that the coronavirus has not presented unique hurdles for KMS, but rather to contend that the culture of KMS is one based on creativity, flexibility, and seeing each difficulty as an opportunity for growth.

As the final report states, KMS is able to “overcome barriers to achieving excellence” – now and into the future.

Just by their very nature, the KMS administration is already setting their sights on how they can strengthen student success moving forward. One area that will garner continued focus is the further integration of personalized learning where students become the drivers of their own success.

More specifically, as Dr. DeAngelis states, the school will be focused on much more than that, “We want to make sure we are using best practices not only for academics, but also for social, emotional learning and college and career readiness.” KMS, like the district as a whole, is not content on past accomplishments or remaining comfortable.

A celebration of the re-designation has yet to be planned but is something the entire Kennett community looks forward to. Assuredly, details of the planned celebration will be publicized when they become available.

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