Mount Airy Middle School was one of four schools in the state to receive this prestigious award at NCASCD’s annual conference held in Pinehurst today. Principal Olivia Sikes, Assistant Principal Levi Goins, Chief Officer of Academics and Human Resources Dr. Phillip Brown, teacher and former School Improvement Team (SIT) Chair Tarona Hollingsworth, as well as teacher and SIT Chair Beth Lowry were on hand to receive the award.
Mount Airy Middle School represents the district’s motto of Lead-Innovate-Serve as educators intentionally structure learning for their 400 students. While the school maintains its Title 1 status, educators and school leaders strive to ensure every child has needs met and barriers removed to meet goals set. Through this work, educators and school leaders from across the state make trips to visit the innovation and learning in action.
Educators and staff members go above and beyond in staying responsive to the needs of students. Over the last few years, student demographics have increased to include 22% Hispanic students. The school has embraced all students and worked to increase understanding of the variety of cultures learning at MAMS while also putting additional supports in place to help each child succeed. As a result, MAMS surpassed goals and earned “exceeded growth” status while also achieving a “B school” grade on its state report card. The overall proficiencies moved the school to the top 12% of middle schools in the state. MAMS also placed in the top 5% for all middle schools for growth. Efforts made by students, staff, and parents earned Mount Airy City Schools the following achievements: 1st in the state for math 7th grade, 9th in the state for math 6th grade, and 8th in the state for reading 7th grade.
Executive Director Dr. Lillie Cox noted, “The prestigious Lighthouse School Award is presented to one or more schools leading the way in North Carolina for excellence in student achievement and innovative programs. NCASCD receives nominations from across the state each year and is proud to recognize only the most impressive schools with this award. We are pleased to present this award to Mount Airy Middle School this year for their accomplishments and dedication to continuous improvement on behalf of their students.”
MAMS’s staff is set apart through their effective implementation of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) that helps students become problem-solvers. Being a small school has not prevented staff from providing a variety of options that develops problem-solving and leadership in students. The number of offerings has attracted over a 5% increase in average daily membership. There are a number of fine art classes such as visual arts, band, and chorus as well as multiple career and technical classes. MAMS started a new health science class and HOSA club in the last three years. This club has already achieved regional, state-wide, and national winners and works hard to prepare students for the workplace. The school has a grant partnership with the College Board which brings a teacher from China to teach Chinese Language and Culture to students. The school also boasts a NASCAR partnership with Richard Childress Racing (RCR) where students travel to RCR and are exposed to careers such as engineering, marketing, and development. This leads to potential internships with RCR in high school.
Throughout MAMS, the staff feels it is important for every child to have opportunities to shine. There are over 12 athletic teams along with over 15 academic teams, that meet daily during the year, as well as during the after school leadership program. These teams include Science Olympiad, Robotics, Twelve, and Quiz Bowl just to name a few. One child stated, “I’ve never done well in athletics, so I am excited to be able to compete academically through NCASA (North Carolina Association of Scholastic Activities). This is my way of showing I am a leader in something.” MAMS gains points in NCASA and the school has led, being first in the state for academic points five years in a row and winning the state cup. The innovation block which ensures that every student has an equitable opportunity to engage in NCASA also allows for other remediation and enrichment opportunities during the day.
The Lighthouse Award also recognizes recipients as having a school with a healthy climate and strong community partnerships. MAMS serves as a community hub where local groups and parents can be found collaborating with school staff to positively impact students. The district holds Innovation Days and staff members reach out to community and business leaders, inviting them to share their expertise with students. In the most recent Innovation Day, students learned from agriculture experts, a drone pilot, and a medical tool engineer, and much more. This day allows students to explore their interests and learn more about their community and its members. The school provides access to its facilities and ball fields for Mount Airy Parks and Recreation which allows more children the opportunity to compete athletically. Additionally, a grant has allowed for the hiring of a career development coordinator who brings in experts from industry that present during a Career Cafe lunchtime. This exposes middle school students to all the careers in the area and provides students an opportunity to learn more about future careers.
“Mount Airy Middle School strives to provide a personalized and innovative educational experience for each student. Through our focus on student choice, career exploration, and high academic standards, Mount Airy Middle School provides multiple opportunities for engagement. We pride ourselves in student growth and value the contributions of all stakeholders who work together to enrich learning opportunities each day.” Olivia Sikes, Principal
Superintendent Dr. Kim Morrison stated, “We are excited that NCASCD has given MAMS this prestigious award. We are proud of the hard work of the students, staff, and administrators. NCASCD is a proven organization for excellence in teaching and learning. MAMS is among the top middle schools in the state for academics and innovation. Receiving the 2020 NCASCD Lighthouse Award recognizes the efforts of the school highlighting MAMS as among the best in the state and nation.”