VAN WERT — Van Wert Middle School has done it again. For the ninth consecutive year, Van Wert Middle School has been named as an Ohio School to Watch (OSTW).

“We say it’s because we’re constantly improving and working to get better,” said VWMS Principal Mark Bagley. “It’s really about that process of reflecting and learning from what we’re doing and figuring out a way to do it better.”

The school is the only one of 19 middle schools to be recognized. The OSTW program identifies high-performing middle-grades schools who succeed in academic excellent, are responsive to developmental differences in students and are socially equitable.

After the application is completed, the school must meet the Ohio Department of Education’s (ODE) Adequate Yearly Progress standard. At that point, an evaluator is sent out.

Bagley shared, “This year was very interesting. We actually had a snow day, one of many, when the guy in charge, who was already here anyway, came to visit. We spent about three hours with him. So it wasn’t a typical redesignation, but it was pretty cool to spend three hours with a person from Columbus who really truly enjoyed conversation about our school.

“The things that we talked the most about were just the way that we keep our staff and our kids engaged in the learning progress, noted Assistant Principal Darla Dunlap.

“Congratulations to staff and leadership for being redesignated as both an Ohio School to Watch and National School to Watch,” wrote ODE consultant Dan Stacy. “This redesignation of Van Wert Middle School recognizes the continued dedication of your staff and leadership. This designation is a reflection of Van Wert Middle School staff’s leadership providing students with the best education possible.”

Bagley stressed, “It’s a total team effort, and Darla a big part of that. We work so close together. We have different strengths as administrators. Our teachers are a part of the process, and so are the kids and their parents.”

The school will be recognized by the Ohio State Board of Education at its May board meeting and at The National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform to be held the National Schools To Watch Conference in June.

Dunlap noted that the process of obtaining the designation drives the administration to find ways to improve.

“I think we find the process invigorating because forces reflection,” she said. “You can’t really get better at what you are do unless you reflect about what you are doing and determining which things are really good and we should keep doing and which are the things that used to be good, but we probably need to look and see if we can do something better for these kids.”

With a change is teaching methods already on tap for the next school year, Bagley knows that it is a good time to improve.

“Next year we’re going to more of a project-based learning, student-centered education where they are working together in groups, very similar to the high school. We’re always constantly trying to find things to always get better in the educational process,” he said.

Van Wert Middle School was first designated as an Ohio School to Watch in 2005 under then-principal Mary Riepenhoff. The school has been redesignated in each year since.