Clinton Middle School: Good School, Great People, Great Future!


This article catches up with my previous series focusing on each of District 56’s schools. We have covered MS Bailey, Clinton Elementary, Eastside Elementary, and Joanna-Woodson Elementary in previous articles. This month, we look closely at Clinton Middle School.

Truth be told, I have not yet grown used to saying “Clinton Middle School” since as a student, teacher and principal I learned, worked and led “Bell Street Middle School;” however, a middle school by any name is just as sweet.

You see, I have a particular fondness for middle school teachers, students, and parents. Often in the educational roll call, it’s easy to hear and care about the elementary schools and the high schools but occasionally the middle school gets lost. Researchers say the average person remembers the first and last parts of a given sequence but have the most difficulty “in the middle.” Students, parents, and teachers also often have the most difficulty “in the middle.”

I’ve heard many people either confess to early adolescent amnesia or early adolescent angst. Rarely does anyone say their middle school years are their best…but why shouldn’t they be?

Clinton Middle School is a marvelously equipped and well run facility. Students have the first chance to take elective courses and also have the first chance to meet classmates from other schools in the district. Granted, adolescence is turbulent and emotions often run unchecked as students come to terms with physical growth, emotional ventures (normally outside of the nuclear family and into the dreaded pressures of the “peer group”), and intellectual hits and misses (much like a pinball buffets from stopper to stopper so does the middle school student from concrete to abstract thought and back again).

As you may know, the state has recently issued report cards “grading” schools along a continuum of truly confusing and often harmful constructs—Unsatisfactory, Below Average, Average, and so on! Clinton Middle had the unfortunate distinction to receive a first report card rating of “Unsatisfactory.” Does this mean our middle school is somehow failing? Falling short? Inadequate?

No! Not at all! What it does tell you is standardized testing (i.e., pencil and paper tests) holds an unrelenting sway over adults. Just boil things down to a number. Quantify it…measure it…report it…record it…and start all over again. I once heard someone use a farming metaphor to explain our perseveration and preoccupation with assessments as the end-all and be-all for accountability, “We worry more about weighing the pig than feeding it.” 

I can honestly say Clinton Middle School is doing A LOT of things well…a lot more things well than when I was a student or even a teacher…or principal! Teachers are working with students in ways that are far more productive than sheer “sit, get, rememorize, and regurgitate” than was common when I was young. Our faculty at Clinton Middle daily works in the trenches to assist students with learning needs and desires, familial issues, psychological trauma, and a whole host of issues related simply to growing up.

Granted, I take test scores seriously and we recognize there is work to do…ways to help meet students’ needs and grade level standards; however, every time I go to CMS I leave energized, enthusiastic, and excited. Is there work to do? Sure. Are we capable of doing it? Absolutely.

Some people have heard the State is taking over the school? Not true! We will receive academic assistance from the state but this is not the first time this has occurred.

Back in 2001, our district had three schools receive academic assistance. I know because I was principal at Bell Street when it happened. Not only was my school “ping-ed” but also Martha Dendy and Joanna-Woodson. And you know what? In no time flat all three schools were out of academic assistance and off any perceived negative list.

And so we will do it again! I have confidence in the leadership of the school and in the passion of the teachers. Labels do not define who or what you are. Time and time again we have met people who have defied labels to achieve in spite of attacks, innuendoes, put downs.

Just this past Monday, we recognized the life and accomplishments of one of these exemplars, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Assailed, persecuted, and eventually killed for his belief and aspiration of equal opportunity for all people, he noted, “If you can’t fly, then run; if you can’t run, then walk; if you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”

That is exactly what the purpose and vision is at Clinton Middle School: providing all students with opportunities to excel, to achieve, and to serve. At Clinton Middle School we move forward daily!

As the old cheer goes, “Are you proud to be a Wildcat?” My response is now more than ever, “Yes, I am!”


(Dr. David O’Shields is superintendent of Laurens County School District 56.)


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