Students, staff, parents and community members of Windsor Knolls Middle School took Tuesday morning to pause and celebrate a special recognition.
The Ijamsville school was recently named a National PTA School of Excellence. On Tuesday, the banner representing this recognition was revealed.
“Our PTSA has been recognized for the partnership they’ve developed between the PTA, the students and the broader community,” said Brian Vasquenza, principal of Windsor Knolls Middle. “No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship.”
The Windsor Knolls PTSA, which includes students, is an active part of life at Windsor Knolls Middle, according to PTSA President Whitney Cummins. Last year alone, the group organized four student dances, stipends for teachers and various fundraisers, and invited a meteorologist to come and speak with students.
Students are also highly involved members. Cummins said she has encouraged students to help run meetings, take notes and organize and run their own events and fundraisers.
“It’s really getting them used to running something and taking responsibility,” Cummins said. “That way, when they get to high school, they already have a handle on the process of running a meeting or what does it mean to project manage or to run a group.”
The process to achieve recognition as a school of excellence by the National PTA took almost a year, said Michele Jaeb, former vice president of the Windsor Knolls Middle PTSA.
Jaeb was the parent who got the ball rolling. She began by administering a survey to parents in September 2018 to assess the climate of the school and where they might be falling short.
The survey results were then submitted to the National PTA, which in turn advised the school on ways to improve through their individualized “Roadmap to Excellence.”
Changes were made, a second survey was administered in May and the recognition was announced in August.
Windsor Knolls Middle is the only public school in Frederick County to earn the recognition this year and one of only six schools in Maryland to do so. The recognition will last for two years, from 2019 to 2021.
“What this means ... is we have a really good foundation and basis,” Cummins said. “We need to make sure it’s a priority that we continue to engage with our parents in our community in helping to all raise these kids together.”
School board member Karen Yoho served as the second president of the middle school’s PTA after the school opened in 1993.
Yoho said the Windsor Knolls Middle PTSA has always been strong.
“A national award, it doesn’t surprise me ... it’s good to see that it’s continuing because the PTA can be such a backbone of the school, just to help support and do good things for the students,” Yoho said.
FCPS Superintendent Terry Alban said that school-family partnerships are essential in helping students.
“I commend the entire Windsor Knolls Middle School community for achieving an outstanding standard of excellence in involving families in the important mission of ensuring an excellent education for all students,” Alban said in a statement.
Vasquenza said he is proud of the recognition and that he knows this is only the beginning.
“This is just one milepost in a journey of continuous improvement,” Vasquenza said. “While this recognition is great, and it should be celebrated ... it just points us in the direction of future work that we need to do and how we can continue to improve as a school and as a school community.”