By Curt Yeomans
Forest Park Middle School once struggled to meet state education standards, but over the last two years, the accolades have rolled in, as the school has shown improvement.
It made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in 2008 for the first time, ever, after years on the Georgia Department of Education's "Needs Improvement" list. This year, the school made AYP again, and came off that list.
Over the last two years, Forest Park Middle School has received five "Distinguished Achievement" awards from State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox.
Two weeks ago, the school got another honor - It was named Keep Clayton Beautiful's "Yard of the Month" for October.
Keep Clayton Beautiful Executive Director Eddie Yongue said the organization rotates between recognizing businesses one month, and recognizing schools, churches or apartment complexes the next month. But the majority of recipients in the latter category this year have been schools.
She praised Forest Park Middle School officials for making the cleanliness of the school a matter of pride for its community. "Forest Park Middle School only has a narrow front yard between the school and the street [Finley Drive], and they keep it immaculate," Yongue said. "That school is always very clean, inside, and out, and sometimes, you need to bring those places that are tucked away in the corner out for people to see."
Forest Park Middle School Principal Jamille Miller-Brown said the staff takes a lot of pride in keeping, not only the campus clean, but the surrounding community as well. She said the school's custodial staff is the main reason why the school won the award. "I owe it to my custodial staff, because they are the ones who make sure this school is clean every day," she said.
Samoeun Touch, the head custodian, said he and his staff of four custodians walk the school grounds to pick up trash, kill weeds, and remove pen and pencil marks from the walls. "It feels good to win this award, because we keep the school as clean as we can," Touch said. "We don't want the school to get messed up."
Miller-Brown said it's crucial for the faculty, staff, and students to make sure the property is kept clean, because it reflects how much they value cleanliness.
She added that the school held a community clean-up in partnership with Keep Clayton Beautiful and the Forest Park Ministers Association last Saturday. The school is also in the process of establishing a recycling club, she said.
"It's very important, because it speaks to the way we feel about our environment," Miller-Brown said. "We want it to be a pleasant and inviting atmosphere."
Forest Park Middle School seventh-grader, Endya Pollard, 13, said the majority of students at the school do care about the cleanliness of the school, and try to pick up trash when they can. She said the appearance of the school is a matter of pride for many of its pupils.
"The majority of us don't just throw garbage down on the ground, and if we do, we pick it up, and then throw it away," Pollard said. "The school should be clean and presentable at all times ... When you throw trash down, you're harming the environment, so that's why I like to pick the trash up."