By Jerry Rice, Murrieta
Learning how to decorate a cake isn’t traditional middle school curriculum, but at Warm Springs Middle School in Murrieta it’s an example of a campus-wide effort that is showing positive results where it matters most: greater student participation and higher test scores.
Called Pride Period, the 30-minute, four-day-a-week enrichment program allows students who are succeeding in math and language arts to select activities from a catalog that includes cooking, digital photography and sewing. Students who need additional help in math or language arts instead receive assistance in those areas.
Pride Period has become a winning proposition this school year, according to Principal Mick Wager.
“The students who are doing well are rewarded by taking an enrichment class,” he said. “And the students who need help are motivated to do their best in the intervention class, because if they do well, they get to take an enrichment class during the next session.”
That incentive appears to be working, Wager adds. “Each session, we’ve needed to offer fewer intervention classes and open extra enrichment classes because more and more students are getting back on track.”
The school’s Academic Performance Index score is following a similar trend. It has gained 42 points in the last two years.
Also growing at Warm Springs is the performing arts repertoire.
Drama was introduced last year, and with the help of teachers and parent volunteers, the 40 to 50 students who participate learn what goes into staging a production. They recently presented their second Disney musical, “The Little Mermaid.”
Band has been offered since the school opened in 2002, and this year a record 340 students are taking part in the program. They perform in four ensembles – Beginning, Cadet, Intermediate and Symphonic – and the current crop of young musicians have quite a reputation to live up to. For eight straight years, the Intermediate and Symphonic bands have earned superiors (the highest possible score) from judges at the annual music festival presented by the Southern California School Band & Orchestra Association.
“I am incredibly proud of the students and their efforts over the years. They are an absolute blast to work with,” said Band Director Trent Newton.
During the current school year, a drumline, color guard and jazz band have been added, increasing the number of performance opportunities for students. The drumline and color guard is already competing throughout Southern California.
As for the jazz band, they also have some high-profile performances scheduled. The ensemble will perform at Vista Murrieta High School with that school's jazz ensembles on April 26, and they also will be going to a major festival on May 11 at Riverside Community College, where schools from throughout the Inland Empire will be competing.
Wager says the music program is only one area of collaboration with the staff and faculty at other schools. Those avenues are open to Vista Murrieta; the two elementary schools that feed into Warm Springs, Alta Murrieta and Buchanan; and elsewhere.
“We have a lot of bridges with everyone planning and working together between the schools to build more seamless transitions,” he said.
Volunteers also are making a difference. While they have long played important roles, a relatively new group—the Wildcat Watch Dads—has been welcomed for their efforts to help supervise basketball games and other activities during lunch.
Said Wager, “A lot of good things seem to be taking hold at Warm Springs, and we're really happy about it.”