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Relationships help Franklinton Middle School “Raise the BAR’

by Curtis Hayes, Director of Communications

Franklinton Middle School (FMS) is a school on the rise. This positive outlook is supported by an 11 percent increase in its composite scores from 2017-18 to 2018-19.

“Franklinton Middle School has experienced its share of struggles in the past due, in part, to a high level of turnover among administrators and teachers throughout its first five years,” FMS Principal David Averette said.

In fact, FMS was a low-performing school just two years ago. But Averette and Assistant Principal Heidi Boardman engineered a perfect formula of passion, relationship building and educational “know-how” that has launched the school to a new level of success.

Mr. Averette humbly credits the school’s success to the support and investment of the Franklin County Board of Education, Franklin County Schools, the Franklinton community and a variety of other organizations like the United Way. He also said the teachers and students are the ones ultimately responsible for the school’s successful academic growth.

With 248 students and 18 teachers in a building that once housed 750 Franklinton High School students, FMS has potential room to grow in terms of population, as well as academics.

The academic growth score is an important measure for many reasons, but one reason in particular is a main goal of Averette.

“That means we’re focusing on every child,” Averette said.

FMS met its growth expectations for 2018-2019, and Averette said his administration has its sights set on reaching even higher levels of success. He plans to continue reaching for increased growth by building on the same game plan that has worked well so far.

Averette was FMS’s fourth principal in five years when he accepted the position nearly three years ago. Establishing a stable administrative environment was a key to building a solid foundation upon which to grow. The next step was proper planning and establishing positive working relationships with teachers, as well as motivational relationships with students.

As a low performing school, FMS was placed on the NCSTAR plan. The school’s Improvement Team began working the plan with a sense of urgency.

“We really had to have a school improvement plan with some teeth and a teacher voice to it,” Averette said. “It’s designed to make you think about the things you’re doing in your school that promote growth, solid instruction each and every day, classroom management and management of your staff.” 

Ms. Boardman said they worked together with teachers and students to establish a democratic approach to the plan.

“We’ll bring things to the table, but the teachers will bring ideas to the table as well,” Boardman said.

A major component of teamwork is the ability to be open-minded and receptive to ideas and input from everyone.

“We listen to them, and that’s a big thing,” Averette said.

But Averette and Boardman didn’t stop with a proactive, teamwork approach to the school improvement plan.

“We also created a Leadership Team,” Boardman said.

While the school improvement plan represents the overall goals and mission, the Leadership Team helps with implementation.

“The Leadership Team is the processes and structures that we exist under every day,” Boardman said. “With the Leadership Team, teachers were able to really talk about what’s working and not working and put it into practice within the next week.”

FMS Leadership Team meetings are always open to every single adult in the school, she said.

“We believe leadership is getting in the trenches with people and trying to be positive role models,” Averette said. 

They also got students involved with school leadership.

“FMS Ambassadors are kids we put into leadership positions around the school,” Boardman said. “But they also have a voice at the table too.”

She said they’ve had a lot of conversations with students, asking them: how do you feel about things? What’s going on? What are some suggestions you have? What would you like to see around the school?

“This is a school that really respects and appreciates what they bring to the table as students who are invested in their educations,” Boardman said.

But FMS also included students who were struggling and really needed a leadership position opportunity in order to build their confidence and feel worthy and appreciated.

“They rose to the challenge,” Averette added.

“If we give that kid a chance, it could make all the difference in the world for their educational outcome,” Boardman said.  

“These are the words the kids (and teachers) need to hear, ‘We believe in you!’” Averette added.

In addition to building relationships that matter to students and teachers, Averette also said that practical methods, such as the Choose FMS Initiative, helped him land key teachers that rounded out his instructional team. The initiative provided extra financial incentives for ELA, math and an 8th grade science teacher.  

With FMS’ outstanding teachers and staff and renewed spirit to achieve, is it possible to go from a 57 composite score to a 70 during the next year?

“That’s 13 points, and that would be a B,” Averette said. “Is that the goal? Why wouldn’t it be? Everything we do, every day, goes toward giving us the potential to get there.”

Boardman said one final piece of the formula for success at FMS has been the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) training.

“It helped our teachers reframe the conversation with a child who is ‘misbehaving’ from what’s wrong with you…to what happened to you,” she said. “If they understand there’s trauma that a child is dealing with, it helps them to maintain their composure and compassion in the classroom.”

The results speak for themselves. The school’s discipline program referrals went from about 80 during 2017-18 to only 30 during 2018-19. And now, the students who are referred are met with a different approach to discipline.

“It’s just a different way of doing things,” Boardman said. “It’s a ‘what’s going on with you first of all’ and ‘how can we support you here at this school so that you’re successful.’” 

Averette said the administration plays an active role through modeling the positive behaviors they expect in teachers and staff.

“We model positivity. We model second chances. We model everybody gets another go,” Averette said.

Averette is also pastor at the nearby Franklinton Baptist Church.

“This is a place I want to be,” he said. “I love what I do.”

FMS Principal David Averette and Assistant Principal Heidi Boardman

FMS Principal David Averette and Assistant Principal Heidi Boardman

 

The outside front view of Franklinton Middle School on a sunny day

Franklinton Middle School

 

10 steps leading up with different inspiring words: Excellence, Compassion, Inclusivity, Opportunity, Honor, Character, etc.

Motivational stairs inside Franklinton Middle School