Stafford Middle School
A brief history…
On February 3, 1992, staff and students moved into the current Stafford Middle School building. The staff included a new principal, Mr. Jerry Jenkins, assistant principal, Ms. Brown, and a new assistant principal, Mr. Jeff Howard. Teachers were organized into teaching teams, one of which called themselves “The Eagles”!
In 1995, an 8th grade Multi-Cultural Festival was started. Guest speakers, flags, costumes, and foods from around the world gave the students opportunities to share their cultures and show what they learned about many cultures from around the world. The school hosted popular spirit events such as Hat Days, NFL Days, Mismatch Days where kids wore different mismatched clothing, and of course SMS Blue and White day. There were Mock elections, Spelling Bees and positive referrals for being caught doing something good.
In 1999, Mrs. Cindy Holder became the new principal. Mrs. Holder was here for one year before becoming the principal at Brooke Point High School. At this time, there were over 1,000 students. It was the first year that book bags were no longer allowed in classrooms due to the lack of space. During this time, a favorite activity was to see what two popular teachers, Ms. Warshaw and Mrs. McPherson were found to be wearing for Halloween costumes as they were always some sort of duo traveling around together!
The 2000-2001 school year welcomed Mr. Steve Butters as the new principal at SMS. There were almost 1,200 students at SMS when a newly opening school up the road, Shirley Heim Middle School, opened in 2008. It was a welcome relief as the shortage of classrooms had special education teachers sharing rooms with other teachers and teaching off of a cart. SMS lost a little over half of our students and staff when they were transferred to the new school. With only 450 students left, there was a growing concern that SMS might be closed due to cost saving measures. The parents, students, and staff had to come together to help keep SMS open. During this time, grade levels were divided into teams so core teachers shared the same students. At one point, tape lines ran down the hallways to keep traffic flowing smoothly, but it didn’t last long as it quickly peeled off the floors. A favorite event was the 8th Grade Awards Night. The entire 8th grade and their families were invited. The band, orchestra, and chorus performed. The presentation of the Drew Award was the highlight of the evening. Plaques and trophies were given out along with certificates.
During this time, field days were so popular that even the teachers got involved in. The “Big Wheel” races were great. Teachers would often practice prior to the big races which often still resulted in teachers still, at times, crashing into one another!
In 2010, Dr. Mark Smith came to SMS as the new principal. During the 2011-12 school year, SMS welcomed Falmouth Elementary students when their school was going through a renovation. The elementary students stayed downstairs while the SMS students moved upstairs and to some additional portable classrooms. Between both schools, students shared the cafeteria, gym, and library spaces. The library was split in half by a wall of bookshelves since middle and elementary classes often met at the same times. In the following years, Grafton Village and Stafford Elementary schools also occupied space at SMS while their buildings also went through a renovation. Having elementary students in the building provided valuable insights as well as learning opportunities for the SMS staff. In the years that followed, Stafford Elementary students were amazed when they returned as middle schoolers and could see our very own remodeled SMS library and the amount of space in the building with two floors being able to be used by students.
In the summer of 2019, Mr. Scott Elchenko became the fifth principal at SMS. Mrs. Jill Bryant and Mrs. Katie Gardner rounded out the administrative team as the assistant principals. During this time, the school was experiencing significant staff turnover and embarked on a path to improve culture, climate, community engagement, and student outcomes. As a result, several school wide improvement initiatives were started.
SMS soon became a SCPS pilot school partnering with our local Rappahannock Area’s Office on Youth. Through this partnership, our SMS staff were trained in Restorative Justice theory and best practices, to include using Restorative Circles as a means to build community. Additionally, our school formed a PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports) committee and established a framework to help recognize students for making strong choices in their day to day activities within the school. The students enjoyed earning Spartan money that they could use to purchase items in our newly formed school store that “sold” items for this Spartan money during our Friday lunch shifts.
SMS also sought to support both teachers and students as part of a Response to Intervention coalition with a committee of educators committed to strengthening our Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). Through this work, and in partnership with our Learning and Organizational Development office in SCPS, SMS took a deep dive into learning about the power of PLC’s and established expectations to help improve academic performance for all of our students. Additionally, our school implemented a tiered intervention of supports model that included a new reading intervention program, Read 180, and a daily intervention and enrichment block called “Flex” to support all of our students’ needs.
As the Fall was turning into winter, we began to hear and learn more about a new coronavirus, called Covid-19. Prior to this global pandemic shutting down schools nationwide in March, 2019, SMS also began preparations for implementing a new Program of Studies that would allow all middle school students the opportunity to “unblock” a double block of English and math courses. This effort would lead to increased elective opportunities for students with the goal of increasing engagement, improving academic results, and providing even greater access to both reading and math intervention and enrichment courses for students that could benefit from both.
As the school closures continued throughout the fourth quarter, we quickly turned our focus, along with SCPS, in figuring out what virtual learning would look like when students were to return for the 2020-21 school year. As the summer continued, SMS hired nearly thirty new teachers that would help become the foundation, along with our returning staff members, and quickly began to train teachers on a learning management platform called, Canvas.
As the 2020-21 school year is upon us, our school is proudly recognized as a truly international learning community with both students and staff alike coming from 33 countries around the globe! Our staff and students teach a rich student demographic whereas out of our 892 students, 32% are African American, 32% are Caucasion, 25% are Hispanic, 7% identify as Two or More, and 4% are Asian. Additionally, SMS currently has 47% of our students qualifying to receive either a Free/Reduced meal.
During the Fall of 2020, we learned that one of our very own US History teachers, Mrs. Kim Cannon, who was the current SCPS Teacher of the Year, was also named as the Virginia Region 3 Teacher of the Year for the entire state of Virginia!
While our first semester has us serving students in a mostly virtual environment, we look to welcome our Spartans back for the second half of the year in a hybrid model under Virginia’s Phased Reopening Plan. With the need greater now than ever to remain connected to our community, we have taken strides to increase our community engagement efforts by continually reaching out to our students and families and checking in on their well-being and to support their overall needs!