Melillo administrators celebrate being named a Texas Schools to Watch.
By Reesha Brown
When it comes to excellence in education, Melillo Middle is a Texas School to Watch.
For the first time since the school opened its doors in 2008, the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform has designated the campus as a Texas Schools to Watch for its academic excellence, responsiveness to the developmental needs of adolescents, helping students of all learning abilities achieve at high levels and collaboration with community members.
“We are glad that the Texas Schools to Watch representatives witnessed the excellence we see on a daily basis,” Diane Wheeler, Melillo principal said. “We always have fun at our school, but most importantly, there is a high level of commitment from students, parents and that results in educational achievements across the board. Everyone involved, puts their hearts into education.”
Selection was based on a rigorous application process that asked schools to demonstrate their merit in the following categories: academic excellence, developmental responsiveness, social equity and organizational support and processes.
The application was written by Principal Wheeler and Assistant Principals Chris Bui and Adriana Saavedra and involved face-to-face interviews with campus stakeholders.
Recognition as a School to Watch means that Melillo earned high marks in every category.
Over the years, Melilo has notably achieved a State Accountability rating of Met Standard as well as Distinction Designations for performing in the Top 25% in Student Progress and Closing Performance Gaps. In addition, the school continues to be at or above the state average for STAAR Testing.
While these accomplishments have given the campus reasons to celebrate, faculty members continue to find new approaches to teaching that meet the needs of students.
In fact, after each STAAR assessment, teachers use accountability data to target problem areas on testing and provide instruction intervention that helps students master core subjects before entering the next grade level.
To close performance gaps, students work in small groups and participate in hands-on activities and computer-based programs to ensure a deeper level of learning.
Students who do well on assessments have the opportunity to sharpen their skills in core subject areas by participating in enrichment activities and lessons during Melillo’s altered scheduled, an incentive program that makes learning fun and engaging.
The altered schedule, which happens on Fridays, allows students to switch between academic and club days. On academic days, students participate in project-based learning to meet their instructional needs. Club days give students a chance to select from a variety of activities like musical performance, fitness, creative writing and baking.
According to the application, “these clubs give teachers an opportunity to share with students their interests and hobbies.”
Melillo students start thinking about college and career readiness at an early age. On the first Friday of each month, the school hosts College Awareness Day, where students don their favorite college t-shirts and listen to college fight sons. Sixth graders also get to experience college life on their field trip to a major university.
The application highlights the positive relationship between the school and community members within the Pasadena and South Belt area.
From family movie nights to school dances and fundraisers, parents regularly participate in various activities that raise awareness about the school culture.
In September, for instance, Melillo hosts an annual Susan G. Komen Foundation fundraiser for its Komen Race for the Cure drive. Through community participation, the school has raised over $45,000, the highest amount obtained by a campus in Pasadena ISD. At the end of the fundraiser, the students have a chance to turn administrative staff into ice-cream sundaes.
“We presented these programs to Texas Schools to Watch representatives to showcase how we put the fun back into school,” Wheeler said. “It keeps students wanting to come back.”
Melillo has been invited to represent Pasadena ISD as they present at the National Schools to Watch conference in Arlington, VA, June 21-24.