Sheffield celebrates School to Watch honor

You need to watch those middle children, you never know what they’ll be up to.

They might even surprise you.

On Friday, students at Sheffield Area Middle School opened its doors to share exactly what they’ve been up to as they celebrated their school’s designation as a Pennsylvania Don Eichhorn School to Watch.

With the designation, Sheffield joins Beaty-Warren and Youngsville middle schools as one of only 34 Schools to Watch in the state.

Designated by the board of the Pennsylvania Association for Middle Level Education (PAMLE), Schools to Watch must meet more than 30 criteria in four different categories. Schools must meet high standards in academic excellence, developmental responsiveness, social equity and organizational structure/processes to receive the designation.

Sheffield Area Middle/High School Principal Amy Beers opened Friday’s celebration by recalling the first school in the Warren County School District to receive the distinction, Beaty-Warren, in 2011.

Beers noted work to become a School to Watch began with implementation of plans to improve middle level education and increase community involvement during the 2010-2011 school year.

“We decided it wasn’t our time (2011) and continued into the next school year,” Beers said. “The next year, we celebrated with Youngsville as they received schools to watch. That took us into the beginning of this school year.”

Beers referred to Sheffield as a school of “invisible excellence” due to its small size, rural location and the tendency for other event to overshadow its achievements.

“We are ready to step out of that shadow with this designation,” Beers announced.

Students led the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of the school alma mater before the Sheffield Middle Choir performed “It’s My Future”, a parody of Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock” written by students at Beaty-Warren when it received its designation.

Exploratory students performed a song using plastic cups as percussion instruments and performed synchronized jump rope exercises.

Arthur Stewart, president of the Warren County School District board of directors, gave the welcoming address, congratulating students, faculty and the community.

“The most important welcome is to you students who have earned this today,” Stewart said.

Stewart acknowledge he was impressed by the maturity with which students presented themselves and noted he owns two businesses near the school and employs a number of Sheffield residents.

“I don’t look for someone who looks down or plays with their hair,” Stewart said of what he, as a business owner watches for in those he does business with. “I look for someone who looks me square in the eye. Our board is extremely proud of you.”

Acting District Superintendent Amy Stewart commented on behalf of central office administration.

“We see individual students… individual teachers… individual staff… recognized all the time,” Stewart said, “but today, it all comes together here for you everybody working together earned this.”

PAMLE Teacher of the Year Clay Hayes, a middle school teacher in Youngsville, recalled an incident in which a community member recognized him from the newspaper. Hayes recounted the individual telling him he looked too young to be a teacher.

“I’m definitely old enough to be a teacher,” Hayes said. “For starters, my sixth grade students teach me something new every day.”

Hayes advised students to, “keep good people, good role models in your life,” citing his brother Chip, a teacher at Sheffield High School, as an example.

He also urged students to work hard.

“All the things you’re doing, it’s working,” Hayes told students. “All the hard work… it just paid off. You are now an example. But let’s make this a short-term goal. Now let’s work on long-term goals.”

Hayes encouraged students to follow their passions.

“If you want to be a truck driver, be a truck driver, but be good at it,” Hayes said. “If you want to be a hair dresser, be good at it. whatever you want to do, enjoy it and be good at it.”

PAMLE Director Bruce Vosburgh reminded the crowd Schools to Watch must apply for redesignation every three years.

“Schools to Watch is about the journey, not the destination,” Vosburgh said.

Student Council then gave a presentation of what the designation means to them, addressing each of the four Schools to Watch categories, before students and faculty were presented with a Schools to Watch banner.

“We are already focused on redesignation,” Beers said. “We will continue to raise the bar.”