By Steve Sears
Mendham Borough’s Mountain View Middle School recently appeared in the inaugural issue of STW Connections, the Schools to Watch newsletter.
“Schools to Watch is based on the national forum to accelerate middle grades reform,” says Aimee Toth, Mountain View Middle School Principal. “It’s a national program and it’s driven by the national forum. The concept of it is there are various pillars or structures that all successful middle schools have, so there are things that are specific to middle level learners.”
Schools to Watch looks to recognize schools that have those pillars in place. Among the specifics looked for are structural organizations (are students permitted to take multiple electives?), are support systems in place for grade level teaming (where kids share the same four-core teachers) and are programs available for social and emotional development (“Like our advisory program,” says Toth, “which that article was based upon.”). It also focuses on, not only what is done for students, but what is done for staff as far as professional learning opportunities for growth as educators.
Mountain View has been re-designated three times as a School to Watch for a total of four designations. The application process includes a self-assessment which the staff completes, and a site visit from the Schools to Watch team, an all-day rigorous process. The visit occurred last February 2018, and the school was officially recognized last summer at the conference in Washington, D.C.
The newsletter is a new publication. “It was really exciting to be in that one,” says Toth. “We were highlighted for Social Equity, which is really based on our advisory program, which Mrs. (Nicole) Lanka spearheads.”
Toth and her school submit articles under the category of “Promising Practices”, which highlight something the school is proud of. “I was scrolling through the first two pages, saying to myself, ‘We definitely have to get in here,’ and lo and behold we were!” Toth says with excitement. “I can think of many things they could’ve highlighted abut our school, but I think this one in particular is one that deserved the space.”
Toth, who values her time with her students and her staff, and her time at the school, is in her third year as Mountain View Principal. She previously worked in the Wayne school district. A key word for her is “improvement,” and that includes evaluating herself. “I remember when I came on (to Mountain View),” she says. “I think one of the challenges when you come to a place that is already high-performing – and this area has a lot of really strong school systems and a history of success – is that it would be easy to come to a place like this and say, ‘Well, they’re doing a great job,’ and leave it at that. But I would like to think that I’m constantly looking at my practices as an administrator and what are things that I can improve and how I can be better at communication? What are ways that we can offer more to our students? I think the mindset has to be that everything is up for discussion. I’m not a proponent for the sake of change, but a proponent for always looking at what do we do, why do we do it, is there a better way or different way we should try.”
“I think we do apply that type of philosophy.”
By Steve Sears