King Middle School is the District’s fourth and newest School to Watch.
King joins just 15 other schools across California to earn the prestigious honor this year from the California Department of Education and the California League of Schools. Curtis, Golden Valley, and Serrano Middle Schools earned the Schools to Watch designation in previous years.
Becoming a state and national model of school excellence is the result of years of hard work on the part of teachers, staff, students, and parents, said Principal Maria Jauregui. And, the focus of that work was not solely on improving academic achievement.
Cultivating caring connections with students has been a major emphasis for every King Middle School staff member, from teachers to custodians.
“We’re focusing on social-emotional learning along with academics,” said Jauregui, who has lead King for the past nine years. “If we don’t have a relationship with our students, we have nothing. That’s why every interaction is an opportunity to connect with our students and all stakeholders.”
Teachers have undergone training in social and emotional learning, which emphasizes the approach of learning to be empathic and compassionate of others as a means to establishing relationships. Studies show that children who have been exposed to traumatic experiences cannot focus on learning. But when educators are given the tools to be aware of students’ emotional, social and behavioral needs they can help them address those issues so that learning is not interrupted, Jauregui said.
Teachers are not the only ones who benefitted from training.
King students also learn about positive ways to resolve conflict. The school’s new Wellness Center is a quiet place where students can meet with a counselor or student support specialist to receive extra support or to just self-soothe by engaging in individual mindfulness activities.
The emphasis on the whole child has resulted in students making academic gains, Jauregui stated. More than half of King’s 700 students have a grade-point average of 3.0 or above for the first semester reporting grades this academic school year. Halfway through the school year, only four King Middle School students have faced suspension.
“Campus is calm, students are learning, we are a school on the move,” Jauregui said.