Saturday March 2, 2013

Brattleboro Area Middle School (BAMS) has been in the news recently as the Guilford School Board, parents and community members process their collective decision about sending their middle schoolers to BAMS for the 2013-14 school year. BAMS is a comprehensive middle school which has benefited from the ongoing support of our School Board, parents and community. In order to add information to the discussion and subsequent decision, we'd like to inform the Guilford community about who we are at BAMS.

-- BAMS offers the traditional course of study which includes math, English/language arts, science and social studies, sometimes taught through an integrated/interdisciplinary approach in a team format.

-- Teachers at BAMS work in a team structure that divides students into four smaller schools within a school. Teams loop with their students, meaning they keep the same students for the two years they are at BAMS.

-- In a student's daily schedule, he/she takes four core classes, two exploratory classes, and an additional period in the school day called Galaxy Block for remediation and enrichment.

-- Students begin their day with a morning advisory--a short check-in with a small group of students and one teacher-advisor. Students also end their day with another advisory block. The program, Developmental Designs, and student discipline approach, Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, guide the shape of our advisory program.

-- In the Exploratory classes, there are numerous electives from which the students may choose, including Art, Health and Personal Wellness, Technology and Design, Introduction to World Languages, as well as grade 8 full-year courses in Spanish, French, Chinese and German.

-- Our Music Programs offer an array of choices: Chorus, Band, General Music, taught via MixCraft Software, and a different General Music Class taught via Guitar instruction; Jazz Band and choral Odyssey (extra-curricular offerings) meet after school weekly.

-- Students at BAMS receive additional instructional support from Academic Support and Special Educators who work collaboratively with the team teachers.

-- BAMS has an active Student Leadership Council.

-- BAMS employs an Educational Technology Integration Specialist who works with teachers and teams to integrate technology into their daily lessons.

-- Teachers provide an after-school Extensions program which provides homework assistance and additional tutoring for students.

-- BAMS has an active and vibrant after-school enrichment program called BEAMS. Transportation home is provided. More than 60 different clubs and activities are offered each year. Examples include Cooking Club, Guitar, Cartooning and Animation, Robotics, Club Scrubs (Health Care career exploration), Geo Bee, BAMS Beat newspaper, Babysitting Course, woodworking, intramural sports of many types along with other non-BEAMS clubs such as Mathcounts or Yearbook.

-- Interscholastic and intramural athletics are offered year-round. These include football, soccer, field hockey, and cross country running in the fall; basketball and Nordic Skiing in the winter; track and field, baseball, and softball in the spring. Additionally, volleyball, tennis, indoor soccer, basketball and floor hockey are offered throughout the school year.

Recently, our students were asked to share their candid perspectives about being students at BAMS. Here are the voices of a few BAMS students:

"My favorite part about BAMS is all my friends. I love waking up in the morning and knowing that I can spend my whole day with my friends. I love the fact that a lot of people from different schools come here because I made a lot more friends from all different schools."

"There are so many groups of people to fit into, and even if you feel no one likes you, you will find friends here. I only had 2 friends that went here when I started, and in the first day even, I had 5 more! The teachers are very nice here. My science teacher brought in a sheep lung and blew into a tube to inflate it!!"

"BAMS looks like a big place but on the inside it is smaller. There are many kids to make friends with and teachers you can get to know."

"This is a very good school. BAMS feels like a safe place to be. There are lots of friendly people here. If you're a slow learner a teacher will give you some of their time to help you learn. The teachers respect you here. The music programs here are great -- chorus and band. The nurses here are nice. They're not like scary doctors or anything. At first the school seems scary but you learn to love it."

"Before I came to BAMS, I felt kinda scared because I heard a lot of bad things about it. Since I came to this school I have learned than none of those rumors are true. I have made more friends, learned a lot of new things, and that all the teachers and staff are really supportive. There are a lot of after school activities, and a lot of great sports teams."

BAMS is an excellent school within a community of excellent schools. Our intent in writing this article is to add information to the conversation. Should the Guilford voters decide to send their middle schoolers to BAMS, we welcome the opportunity to educate them, and our school community will be further enriched by their presence.

Ingrid Chrisco is the principal of the Brattleboro Area Middle School. She submitted this piece with assistance from BAMS staff members.