Port Charlotte Middle: Myriad paths, 'ONE’ goal

by: Staff writer, Sun Newspapers - Opinion Updated:

Charlotte, Florida - 'ONE Voice. ONE Team. ONE Message," is more than a slogan or a mantra; it’s a movement, initiated this year by our Charlotte County Public Schools superintendent Steve Dionisio. The superintendent’s goal is to lead our district to rise to number one in the state.

As one of the many principals in the district, I can speak with confidence for my own instructional and support staff at Port Charlotte Middle School. We are proud to be part of that one, important "CCPS Team." In fact, we are enthusiastic and committed to doing our part to bring that number one goal to fruition, as our whole team rises to the top, together.

As principal of PCMS, my message to our community is that Port Charlotte Middle School is not ordinary. In fact, we invite families and neighbors to visit us and see for yourselves. Walk the halls to witness the cheerful faces, the positive interactions among peers, and listen at classroom doors to the sounds of the skillful facilitation of learning that takes place here, every day. Drop in to our welcoming new Family Center that plays host to special events and presentations, in addition to promoting literacy by providing free books to our students.

Each adult in our corner of the educational community, from teachers, to office staff, cafe crew and maintenance workers, are one team dedicated to educating our young people to develop the will to amplify what is right, each and every day. That may be expressed in a positive attitude, a smile of support given to a peer, or even in the tiniest of gestures like holding the door for someone. We are all working collectively at empowering PCMS students to develop their talents, skills, passions and intellectual abilities for use in effecting change for the betterment of their school and community. We work to instill in them a sense of citizenship and responsibility.

PCMS is not ordinary; it offers myriad paths to success, starting with the well-rounded academic programs together with business career and readiness training through our Microsoft IT Academy. It offers an impressive array of service clubs and an ample array of artistic opportunities for our students to achieve excellence. Yes, PCMS is far from ordinary. This year, the faculty, Parents Partnership Council and support staff drafted the school’s new mission statement to proudly affirm the following at PCMS: "We empower and inspire all students to be critical thinkers by offering innovative and creative opportunities within our diverse community."

Just as our superintendent has laid out a strategic plan to put our district on the right path to the top, I am a principal committed to my responsibility as "The Gatekeeper" for our student body, by offering myriad paths to achieve our school’s vision of "Celebrating Student Success." Within the walls of PCMS, students not only glean knowledge of academics, experiment in STEM labs and excel through the arts, under the guidance of dedicated professionals, but they also partake of our wide array of before- and after-school activities.

They are offered chances to lead by example and influence peers as part of our Academic Integrity Committee, fight the dangers of tobacco use through membership on our SWAT team, and work diligently to help build our school into just the kind of place where students want to be. We have a Check and Connect mentoring program, after-school clubs for drama and math, National Junior Honor Society, the Student Government Association, Beyond the Bell, and our popular Terrier Pride, Positive Behavior Program. Each year, our hardworking students earn accolades, awards and scholarships for the countless extraordinary things they do.

We invite parents to visit our school, join our PTO and SAC organizations, or just sit in a classroom to watch the brilliance unfold. If you do, you’ll see for yourselves all the extraordinary things that go on, every day, at Port Charlotte Middle School.

My personal goal for our school is to ensure that we continue to provide a wealth of opportunities, in and out of the classroom, while enabling our students to develop the skills necessary to be well prepared for college and a successful career in the future. It’s my belief that the perfect job provides a sense of worth, accomplishment and a chance to leave a legacy. It’s my plan to see that our school shines like a beacon, enlightening our youth with a sense of pride and confidence in their own abilities to become responsible, happy, well-rounded citizens. Finally, I am dedicated to supporting our "Terrier Family" as we all work to instill in these amazing young people the desire to stay in our community as adults, encouraging them to pitch in and share the wealth of talents they developed here.

Let’s borrow a page from our superintendent’s book, by uniting all families in the Charlotte County with "ONE Voice, ONE Team, ONE Message" to support their community and Charlotte County Public Schools on our rise up to number one. Let’s work together to improve our environment by building it into a place of pride, thriving with the riches of respect for diversity. And, most of all, let’s make it a place where we all want to live. If we do, we’ll all come out on top!

Maria Gifford is the principal of Port Charlotte Middle School.