Q&A: Carbondale Middle School Principal Jennifer Lamont
Continuing our interviews with Roaring Fork Schools principals, Jennifer Lamont, principal of Carbondale Middle School, shared her thoughts on engaging parents, the award-winning programs at CMS, and what students need to remember when it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning.
You’ve been working at CMS for more than 20 years, as a special education teacher and administrator. In your time at the school, what lessons have you learned about education?
- A strong school culture is essential as a foundation for student learning.
- Kids feel good when you know their name.
- Relationships and trust between students, staff and parents are key when creating a great school.
- You can learn a lot about life hanging out in a middle school lunchroom.
How do you engage parents and community members in decisions for CMS?
Clear communication and an openness and appreciation for feedback make families and community partners feel welcome and a valued part of school.
In our small town, the entire community plays a stakeholder role. Both community partnerships and parent involvement are key to our students success.
To provide just a few examples of our community partnerships, the Buddy Program supports our Outdoor Leadership program, which focuses on helping youth develop teamwork, communication, decision-making and leadership skills, both inside and outside of the classroom.
Youth Entity provides financial literacy. Pre-Collegiate mentors guide groups of 7th and 8th grade students towards a successful, college bound, future. Carbondale Arts supports our school in making connections with the Carbondale Creative District. The Family Resource Center works to support our students with wrap around resources. Our students DJ at the local radio station, KDNK.
Access After School provides funds for teachers to provide academic support and enrichment activities after school. These partnerships not only support our students but enrich their lives while creating meaningful middle school memories.
CMS won the 2018 Colorado Succeeds award for Transformational Impact at a middle school. What initiatives and approaches set CMS apart from other schools in the region and the state?
Our school population has a large variance in social-emotional, academic, and executive skills. In response to these various needs, we have developed targeted and intensive supports and programming across all levels. In addition, CMS fundamentally believes that if we want to maximize our children’s learning and opportunities for success in life, we need to prioritize a caring environment in order to establish a positive culture and climate for academic achievement.
Crew is our vehicle to ensure every student, every day will feel like they are a valued member of CMS. Each student has an advocate who assists in building relationships, mentors for academic advisement, coaches character development and facilitates adventure for students to take risks and try new, challenging things. Student survey data indicates that students increasingly feel that they belong at CMS — 10 percent growth 2016 to 2018. Our Crew leaders (teachers) are trained on Growth Mindset, Trauma informed classrooms, No Bully practices and restorative practices. These universal practices help provide a feeling of crew all day long, in all settings, and positively impact our school culture .
Would you describe a few of your most rewarding moments at CMS?
Each year our staff completes a teaching and learning conditions survey developed by the state of Colorado. One of the questions states, “I would recommend this school as a good place to work” — 100% of our staff has responded positively.
Every spring, the Roaring Fork High School seniors walk the halls of our school in their caps and gowns a few days before their graduation. Our teachers, their siblings, and our student body watch this procession. It is a special moment for all of us.
What do you see as the greatest challenges teachers face in the Roaring Fork Valley?
The ability to support oneself, own a home, on a teacher salary.
What is one thing you hope CMS students learn before starting high school?
They all have the ability to succeed. Remember to ask for help from their classmates, their teachers and their family. They have a team to support them. There will be days they need to stay up late to finish a paper or have to drag themselves out of bed, hoping for a snow day. But they should remember that “nothing will work unless you do.”
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Glenwood Springs High School senior A.J. Adams tells some special stories stemming from his own family’s experience in a film documentary that he completed for his capstone project.