SMS gives campus report

A campus report on Sweetwater Middle School was heard during Monday night's meeting of the Sweetwater ISD (Independent School District) Board of Trustees.Principal Jeff Withrow gave the report, in which he recapped that last year changes were made to incorporate a positive climate. Through the introduction of new initiatives, a dramatic yet good change was seen, which has continued into the start of this year.On the surface, positive feedback has been heard from the landscaping that was done. New benches accompany the planter boxes lined up on the Avenue C side of the campus, and "Sweetwater Strong" signs adorn the school.Within the school, speakers were installed in the upstairs gym. All classrooms have new tile, while new carpet was installed in the front office and band and choir rooms.One of the portable buildings has become a place of storage as well as distribution for the Backpack Buddies program. Students have assisted by organizing and separating donations.The school also has a new history lab and science research lab. Students can re-enact historical events and search for information in their respective areas.Furthermore, SMS recently added a concession stand, which helps raise money for the school. The stand has been used for basketball games, and will also be used when the school hosts the UIL district meet on December 4. Looking ahead, they hope to include more planter boxes to the campus and develop a garden area, which would involve several classes. In addition, they hope to install a kiln in order to introduce pottery, ceramics and clay into the art classes.Sweetwater Middle School is always looking at new things to do and improve on campus. They have implemented an "employee of the week" wall where students can guess who the honoree is with clues that are placed on the wall.Furthermore, this year saw an increase in the cheerleading program with the addition of a 7th grade squad and pep squad open for all grade levels. The school also hopes to incorporate more field trips into their curriculum.The campus electives, in their second year, have proven to be very successful at SMS. High interest has been seen in a new class, archery, but a random drawing limits every class to around 20 students.Other electives offered this semester include robotics, TMSCA (Texas Math and Science Coaches Association), weight lifting, honors band, cross stitch, golf, broadcasting, culinary, woodworking/mechanics, Zumba, first aid/nutrition, sign language, Destination Imagination, Literary Circle, Bling it On!, holiday ornaments, and board games. Some of the programs will take part in outside competition.The electives are developed from student as well as teacher interest, and more classes are expected to be included next semester. Withrow stated that part of the success of the electives classes has been that students have an incentive to pass their classes.The continued implementation of technology has been successful, as all students on campus have their own iPad. Teachers are participating in workshops to utilize the iPad in the classroom, student learning has been enhanced as a result, and surrounding school districts are learning from SMS on how to bring technology in the classroom.Another successful program is ZAP (Zeroes Aren't Permitted), which has drastically improved grades and passing rates. Students are given an opportunity to complete missing work during the school day, and if necessary, will take part in the after-school session.During this past six week period, the failing rate stood at less than 20%. This program, along with the combination of the iPads and electives, has also brought a decrease to discipline, from 90 referrals two years ago down to 27 this year. Overall, the activities and incentives within Sweetwater Middle School have greatly impacted the campus and helps keep students excited about school.