JFKMS celebrates accreditation

Published 11:06 pm Wednesday, September 12, 2018

John F. Kennedy Middle School received a visitor with a special gift on the Friday before schools opened up.

Superintendent Dr. Deran Whitney visited the middle school to deliver a banner announcing the school’s full accreditation with the Virginia Department of Education.

“We did a lot of smart work, and it was a good collective effort,” said JFKMS Principal Bryan Thrift.

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This banner means more to JFK than to some other schools in the area, because the school was denied accreditation during the last school year after a few years of warnings from the VDOE.

“The teachers put their heart and soul into this school, and it was a feel-good moment. It warms your heart,” Thrift said. “I set a goal, and they jumped on board. They were in the trenches doing the hard work.”

Now, with the new accreditation standards and a game plan from Thrift, the school has received full accreditation.

Thrift, who is only in his second year at John F. Kennedy, made changes to the school climate and the subject where it struggled most — reading.

“We changed a couple of things. We made changes to the climate of the building and worked on chronic absenteeism. We went from 21 percent to 11 percent absenteeism,” Thrift said. “We made a point to keep them in the building, because if they aren’t here, we can’t teach them.”

Chronic absenteeism is one of the metrics used to measure accreditation under the new standards for Virginia.

The keys to improving reading were small reading groups and special education teachers, according to Thrift.

While Thrift is happy with the school’s success, he is looking forward to the strides students and teachers can make in the new school year.

It is important for Thrift and his teachers to help their students pass the Virginia Standards of Learning assessments, but now they plan on pushing for passing with more advanced scores.

Success in academics is important, but Thrift will also be working on other things this year that can’t be measured by a test.

He plans on building on previous successes by getting more involved with the community around the city.

“I’m really excited for some major community outreach. We are planning a fall festival and it is open up to the community, not just the kids,” Thrift said.

The festival will be held Oct. 27, and more details will be released later.