Selmer Middle School makes big plans for school year

By Janet Rail

Selmer Middle School makes big plans for school year

Staff Photo by Christen Coulon

Becoming an academic leader has been true music to Doctor Brenda Armstrong’s ears.

Since she was tapped a the new principal of Selmer Middle School’s 489 students and 32 teachers last year, Armstrong has persented a strong vision for the school’s future.

In fact, just this week, she is attending a conference on “Making Middle Schools Work” which focuses on best practices for each grade level. She plans to implement new ideas upon her return.

Her primary focus is to assure the school is not targeted again in the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act passed by President Bush. The school was targeted in math and the school has implemented a lot of interventions and one-to-one training with students.

The schools has initiated Think Link a program developed by Vanderbilt University focused on the use of formative assessment to improve K-12 students learning and performance while measuring their progress toward meeting state standards.  These assessments are completed three times a year at SMS.

“This assessment allows each teacher to see skills each child needs to work on. It is both diagnostic and prescriptive and I believe it is truly helping,” stated Armstrong. Think Link has Probes where a teacher looks at an objective and builds an individualized test for the skills a student needs so they can practice.

According to Armstrong, the school teaches accelerated math exclusively. Accelerated reading promotes an interest in reading but research does not prove an increase in test scores from the program. 

“My main concern is assuring our students test well as a result of the efforts of our gifted faculty. It never ceases to amaze me the talents of my teachers. I am still learning about them and the new teachers on our team are ready to set the world on fire,” said Armstrong.

Armstrong grew up in McNairy County, moving here at the age of five when her father Dr. Harry Peeler started his practice. She graduated from the first graduating class at McNairy Central, received a bachelor’s degree in music education from Union University, a master’s in education leadership from the University of Memphis and a PhD in education leadership from the University of MS in 2007.

Early in her career, she taught music and piano privately in Las Cruces, New Mexico; Glendale, Arizona, Alamogardo, New Mexico, Tampa and Key West, Florida before returning to McNairy County. “I am happier now than I have ever been and feel I am doing what the Lord wanted me to do,” said Armstrong.

With over 25 years in education, Armstrong has great plans for SMS this year. She plans to video each student individually with the help of Tim Hurst and put on their website. The school also has an online gray book designed to keep parents informed and up to date. 

The fifth grade got one-to-one laptops last year and this year sixth grade will get them. “We are living in a world of technology and we have to keep up,” she continued. 

There are plans to have a school-wide writing book where every student makes a contribution to a journal we plan to have printed. This journal will include poetry, limericks, short stories, etc. Writing skills impact several areas on the TCAP scores positively so writing is important in Armstrong’s opinion.

Armstrong ended in saying; “Our student population is very diverse so we have a lot of the same problems you see in inner city schools but we try to address the needs of all children as we are servants to the community and take pride in our work. I believe schools in McNairy County are better than many other counties and we look forward to a great year at Selmer Middle School.”