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Liberty Middle School receives national honor

NORTHWEST FORSYTH — A school in north Forsyth was spotlighted by a national program Wednesday for being a high-performing school that others should look to as mentors.

Liberty Middle was named a Georgia Lighthouse School to Watch during a presentation that welcomed state and local officials to the campus on Wallace Tatum Road.

The recognition is part of the National Forum Schools to Watch program. Liberty is one of four middle schools added to its current list of 18 in the state.

“This is such a special recognition. You don’t get to become a Georgia Lighthouse School to Watch unless it’s a community effort, and it’s clear here that home, school and community work so well together,” said Forsyth County School Superintendent Jeff Bearden.

Schools included in this list must go through an intensive application process to demonstrate their success in four domains — academic excellence, developmental responsiveness, social equity and organizational structures and processes.

Eighth-grade drama students performed a skit that showcased Liberty’s strengths as pointed out by its evaluation.

“We don’t care just about the students’ academics. We care about who they become,” said one student during the performance.

“Liberty Middle School is so amazing,” said Forsyth County Board of Education Chairwoman Darla Light, who represents District 4 in north Forsyth. “They teach them inquiry-based learning. They teach them respect. They’ve taught them how to address people, how to talk in public.”

She said she recently talked to a mother of a Liberty student who said the school helped her overcome shyness by being “a safe place to learn.”

The school’s symphonic band performed opening and closing songs, and the chorus sang “The Star Spangled Banner” and R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.”

There are more than 400 schools in 17 states that are recognized under the national forum by research-based criteria, said Camille McElroy, co-director of the program.

Schools must reapply every three years to prove their continued growth to remain in the program.

Liberty’s “warm and inviting atmosphere provides a safe learning experience,” she said, adding that the school is a “true middle school in every sense of the word.”

Teachers’ integration of technology in “all aspects of learning” was also a highlight.

“The work you do for the kids,” said Cindy Jones Mills, county commissioner for District 4, “is the light that shines brightest of all.”