Weston Middle School Named a National Blue Ribbon Award Winner

Yesterday, the Weston Middle School was named a 2021 U.S. Department of Education National Blue Ribbon Award Winning School, one of 325 K-12 schools named in 2021, and one of only five Massachusetts winners. The U.S. Department of Education runs the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program which recognizes outstanding public and non-public schools. The two categories of awards are Exemplary High Performing Schools and Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools.  Weston’s win was in the category of Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools, which is defined as being among Massachusetts’ highest performing schools in closing achievement gaps between a school’s student groups and all students.

It is the first time in the 38 years of the Blue Ribbon Award program that a Weston public school has won the award. The competition is fierce: all schools are eligible including public schools, charter schools, magnet/choice schools, Title I schools, and non-public schools including parochial and independent schools. Weston’s private Meadowbrook School won a Blue Ribbon Award in 1998, the only other Weston win.

Weston Middle School’s Principal John Gibbons, who the Owl interviewed in the spring of 2021, and Liz Heichelbech, WMS instructional coach, co-wrote the incredibly detailed application. If you’d like a look at how two former English teachers can write, read the application. The Owl would like to go back to middle school please. No, wait, cancel that. Here is the second paragraph of the summary (page 8 of 19 of the application):

Set amidst trees and meadows, but within earshot of the busy traffic of the Mass Pike highway, Weston
Middle School (WMS) lies sandwiched between its very own maple sugaring shack and its student-planted
garden. Meanwhile, the front of the building is adorned with modern, angular wooden sculptures created by
middle school artists, made possible by a grant from the Weston Educational Enrichment Fund Committee
known as WEEFC. Composed of parents and community members, this active committee demonstrates how
very much the Weston Public Schools lie at the heart of this town of about 12,000. The racial diversity of
Weston’s historically white and affluent population has risen in recent years, and the town strives to use its
leverage to advocate for equity and diversity. It was an early adopter of the Metropolitan Council for
Educational Opportunity (METCO) program, a voluntary school integration initiative within the
Commonwealth of Massachusetts to promote school diversity, close the achievement gap, and overcome
racial barriers; it has remained an active advocate and participant in the program since 1967. In 2018,
Weston Public Schools hired its first administrator dedicated solely to equity, diversity, inclusion, and equal
access initiatives. Weston also hosted a well-attended Black Lives Matter demonstration on the town green
in the summer of 2020.
” -Weston Middle School Blue Ribbon Award application

Reached by e-mail last night, Mr. Gibbons shared the success and the congratulations among all of the teachers who have touched Weston students’ lives:

“It’s a complete team effort, and our faculty, staff, students and community all should be commended for this honor…  Not only WMS, but also the many outstanding teachers who have contributed to the success of our students along their journey in the Weston Public Schools.”

Moving On ceremony, June 2021, Assistant Principal Phil Oates (L) and Principal John Gibbons (R)

As full disclosure, the Owlets graduated (or moved on) from Weston Middle School this spring. They numbered among the 454 students in the Middle School during the incredibly difficult pandemic year that included hybrid, remote learning academy and then in-person schooling for the students. It is hard to express (for me–help, WMS!) how amazing this award is particularly in a year where students were forced physically apart but our school closed the achievement gap. Honestly, it makes me a bit emotional. There, get your dry newspaper reporting somewhere else, because here you get it real. Weston Middle School–the U.S. Department of Education does not outright say it but you all kick ass.

I’ll leave you with John Gibbons’ words, as he would not approve of my last sentence.

“It is truly a great honor and I am humbled by it. We have worked very hard as part of our improvement process over the years to identify our achievement gaps and work on closing them.  As you know, we focus on the whole child at WMS, and in doing so, we are able to also work with students who struggle and provide them opportunities to achieve their goals.”

Go ‘cats!

Note that the video of the award ceremony wil be available here at 11 am today, Wednesday, September 22, 2021.

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