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Port Chester Middle School

For Port Chester Middle School, the road to excellence has been long and hard. A March 2007 profile of the school noted that former principal Carmen Macchia spent the first six years of his tenure (1993-1999) making it safe and clean. Then his staff honed in on improving instruction. In 1999, only one-third of Port Chester Middle School students demonstrated at least basic competency in English and math. To ensure that all students reached their potential, Macchia and his staff hired an educational consultant, emphasized teacher training and stepped up literacy instruction across subjects. Those efforts paid off: In 2005, two-thirds of the school’s students met the state standards for English language arts. Two years later, the school continued to make gains. At the time of that March 2007 profile, the school had the county’s highest level of non-native English speakers. Still, it was the only school in the county to earn mentions on New York state’s most improved lists in both English and math.

Michael De Vito has taught at Port Chester since 1986. He attributes the school’s success to faculty members who are “experts at what they do,” to strong administrative leadership, and to good communication between teachers and the principal. De Vito says that Principal Patrick Swift has continued best practices made during Macchia’s tenure, such as working with an education consultant who’s a former teacher and analyzing data as part of professional development.

De Vito teaches seventh- and eighth-graders in English seminar, which is geared toward the school’s strongest readers and writers. Students take a qualifying test to enter the rigorous program, in which they read an average of two novels a month. De Vito says parents often tell him and his colleagues that they assign a lot of homework, but in the next breath, they say their children have no trouble when they get to high school. “We push them to produce and perform,” De Vito says proudly. “I’m glad I work here.”

Port Chester Middle School strives to help students grow not just academically, but emotionally and socially. This year, the school will implement the Development Designs program, which helps teachers guide students during their middle school years. For two weeks in July, 15 teachers participated in the program’s training and learned how to develop students’ communication, problem-solving and goal-setting skills. If this program trial meets expectations, administrators plan to expand it in the coming years.

Administrators and teachers also look forward to making community service and healthy living important aspects of the school. A local church has joined with school officials in making plans to transform an already existing garden on school grounds, with the yield going to a local food pantry. Originally created by a former science teacher, the garden is in part tended by students, and ties in with science and health curricula. Port Chester students are growing indeed—and not just in the classroom.


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