Pictured from left to right are Assistant Executive Director Tiffany Caouette, MBA Principal Margot Martello, MBA Assistant Principal Hannah Dill and Somers Public Schools Superintendent Sam Galloway, during the award presentation on April 22 at the Somers Board of Education meeting.
Reminder Publishing submitted photo

SOMERS — Students, faculty and staff at Mabelle B. Avery Middle School in Somers are celebrating their recent achievement of earning the title of Middle School of the Year.

The annual award, presented by the Connecticut Association of Schools, is designed to recognize schools for their outstanding programs and practices that successfully meet the needs of 21st century learners.

“Mabelle B. Avery Middle School is extremely deserving of the award and is representative of the exemplary work of teachers and staff on behalf of their students that is happening in schools across the state,” said Tiffany Caouette, CAS assistant executive director.

According to a news release from CAS announcing the award, Mabelle B. Avery stood out from other nominees for its “outstanding best practices, especially in the areas of curriculum alignment, student services, equity and inclusion, and personalized learning.”

“It is a very competitive process to identify the school of the year,” Caouette said, noting they have begun to see an uptick in nominations since a lull during the coronavirus pandemic.

Each year nominations are solicited for the Elementary and Middle School of the Year awards. Nominees submit a written application which is evaluated by a selection committee consisting of active and retired principals and assistant principals. Site visits are conducted at the schools of the two highest candidates in each category.

Winners are then chosen based upon the outcome of the site visit as well as the quality of the written application.

Margot Martello, principal at Mabelle B. Avery, said she was inspired to enter the CAS Awards Program for School of the Year by Dr. Sam Galloway, superintendent of the Somers Public Schools.

“I was giving Dr. Galloway a tour of our school last summer just after he arrived as the new superintendent. After the tour, he suggested we were well-positioned to earn the recognition and encouraged me to get behind the school’s application for the award as Middle School of the Year,” she said.

During the tour, Galloway asked Martello about their academic programming, student support and parental involvement at the school.

“Based on her answers and learning what was in practice at the middle school, I told her she would have a very strong application to apply for Middle School of the Year,” Galloway said. “I was very happy to learn in March that the school received the award. It confirms the hard work and positive impact Principal Martello and her staff are having on their students and families.”

Martello, along with faculty and staff, began the long process in July 2023 to evaluate the school and its progress over the years, followed in the fall by identifying their best practices and writing an extensive narrative explaining them in detail. The application was submitted in December. After learning the school was a finalist, a site visit was scheduled for the selection committee that included a tour of the school and opportunities to meet with staff, students and parents.

“Receiving the award for Middle School of the Year is a well-deserved recognition for our faculty and staff. I know firsthand how hard they work. It is a team effort and I am proud to serve alongside them,” Martello said.

Among the many questions addressed in the extensive application was a narrative that showcased the school’s commitment to fostering a safe and healthy environment for students, staff and visitors; describing how the school adopts a research-based curriculum aligned with standards and assessments that ensure students are prepared to meet high educational standards; sharing a narrative outlining the student services offered by the school that go beyond the typical, including support services, extra help, clubs and activities; describing the measures and initiatives the school has undertaken to promote equity and inclusion among students, staff and the broader school community; explaining how the school’s staff addresses the personalization of the school environment for students and encourages a sense of ownership among students, parents and staff; and describing how the school’s staff exemplifies collaborative leadership and fosters professional learning communities.

To view the in-depth answers, visit sites.google.com/somers.k12.ct.us/mba-middle-school/home.

“I believe CAS took special note in our answers of the many ways we expand learning beyond the classroom. They were also very interested in the level of support we provide to all students and families, which extends from academic support to student counseling to offering parents ways to support their children and providing them with connections to outside services if needed,” Martello said.

Mabelle B. Avery Middle School, at 1 Vision Blvd., has a student population of 308 students in grades 6-8, and ranks in the top 50% of all schools in Connecticut for overall test scores in math and reading proficiency.

Created in 1953, CAS has grown to represent well over 800 of Connecticut’s K-12 public and parochial schools, providing them with services ranging from academics to athletics. CAS is a member-driven, nonprofit educational organization that supports the state’s schools and their leaders through advocacy, professional learning, recognition programs and student activities.

Keith J. O’Connor
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