TREMONTON - By Cari Doutre - March 10, 2020
A big honor, but an even bigger accomplishment, for students, teachers and staff at Alice C. Harris Intermediate School in Tremonton has added a very prestigious distinction to the school – and maybe even some bragging rights.
Harris Intermediate has been announced one of 2020's schools in the Utah Schools to Watch program. This is an honor that recognizes mid-level age schools for students, 11-15 years old that exemplify educational practices that promote development and positive learning experiences.
Bear River Middle School in Garland is also part of the Utah Schools to Watch program. They first received that distinction four years ago and last year repeated the title.
Harris Intermediate School Principal Alison Williams and Vice Principal Todd Barrow began the application process with Utah Schools to Watch program last year. It included plenty of data gathering and a lengthy 15-20-page narrative about the school.
One of the other requirements was that school must meet the criteria to become a part of the Utah Schools to Watch program.
The four criteria that must be met, and evidence must be presented, are organizational leadership, developmental responsiveness, social equity and academic excellence.
Harris Intermediate met all those requirements and passed the test - and did so with flying colors.
Getting word that Harris Intermediate earned the distinction was a very memorable experience.
“That was the exciting part. We worked hard for years to build a good school and then to realize that we meet these criteria that are already there,” Williams said.
“Our parents need to see the good things that we’re doing here and our students need to be recognized too as well as the teachers who work so hard to make sure we do have all those things in place,” she added.
Barrow’s previous experience with programs similar to Utah Schools to Watch also played a major role in helping the school receive this distinction.
“Last year was my first year here. I saw that there were a lot of teachers here who are doing a lot of really great things,” Barrow said. “It reminded me of my last school in Colorado and I thought they (the school) needed to be recognized for some of the cool things we do here.” Story continues below...
The main premise for the Utah Schools to Watch program is to focus on the unique needs of students in this age range by offering resources and networking capabilities.
“Students grow more in this age than any other time except one to two years old. We need to recognize that this is a very unique age. Then we do things at our school that helps them to develop in all of those areas in a positive way,” Williams said.
The distinction of a Utah School to Watch also helps teachers and staff maintain those positive school practices that help students progress and learn.
“I think the main reason that you want this distinction is to help you stay focused on what you’re really doing and what the purpose is for this age group,” Williams said.
Another benefit to this distinction is a network that allows schools to observe and learn from other schools in the program. Now that Harris Intermediate is part of the Utah Schools to Watch program, they can offer those same learning opportunities to other schools.
“It’s all just about learning and continuous improvement and networking and working with other schools,” Barrow said. “All to meet the needs of the mid-level age students and their unique needs.”
Harris Intermediate School will have the distinction as a member of the Utah Schools to Watch program for three years. Story continues below...
To celebrate this honor there will be a ceremony on April 10, 2020, at Harris Intermediate that will include the state director over the Utah Schools to Watch program, members of the Box Elder School District and local dignitaries. The school will also receive a banner and a plaque.
The ceremony will also include a special appearance by Harris Intermediate’s very first principal, Mary Kay Kirkland. Kirkland is set to speak at the event and was a big advocate for this cause prior to her retirement.
Principal Kirkland won’t be the only past principal invited to attend. Harris Intermediate has invited all past principals from the school to join in on the celebration.
The ceremony will also include performances by the Harris Intermediate band, orchestra and choir so that, “we make it a big deal,” Williams added.
This June, Williams, Barrow and a group of teachers and staff at Harris Intermediate, will attend the National Schools to Watch conference in Washington D.C. The conference will provide resources and training for educators to implement at their schools.
“The more that they are involved in this whole process the more it spreads throughout the faculty. It really does have an impact there, which is what we’re after,” Williams said.
However, the April 10, ceremony won’t be the first time Harris Intermediate has been recognized for earning the distinction.
Barrow, along with Bear River Middle School Principal Eldon Peterson, took a group of students from both schools to Salt Lake City to be a part of a Utah legislator session on Feb. 27.
Both local schools were recognized on the House floor and students were given the opportunity to sit with their local state representative, Joel Ferry.
State Senator Scott Sandall also got wind of the schools’ visit and kept the recognitions going with a visit to the State Senate’s session that day.
In the end, the honor and distinction as a Utah School to Watch boils down to one important thing.
“It’s to recognize the amazing things our students and teachers are doing here,” Williams said.