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South Middle latest to earn state honor
Student Riley Geran takes notes Friday in Jacquelynn Zatloukal’s class at South Forsyth Middle School, which has been named a Georgia School of Excellence. - photo by Autumn McBride

South Forsyth Middle School was recently honored as the county’s 14th Georgia School of Excellence.

Only 22 schools statewide received the honor this year, 11 of which made the greatest gains over three years and the other 11, including South, ranking in the top 10 percent of the state.

“This is the first time [the school] has received this recognition and I think parents are going to be thrilled,” said Principal Sandy Tinsley. “They know we have good things going on in the building, but this just affirms what they already feel — that we have strong teachers, that we have great students and great parental support.

“It’s a combination of all of us working together that allows our students to do so well.”

Beyond a top 10 ranking, a school of excellence must also meet adequate yearly progress for three consecutive years and meet or exceed state mean scores in science and social studies, among other requirements.

“[It’s] by far one of the greatest accomplishments a school in Georgia can attain,” said Forsyth Schools Superintendent Buster Evans. “I think it says much about our school system that we annually continue to have Forsyth County schools make this prestigious list.”

Three other local middle schools — North Forsyth, Otwell and Riverwatch — have previously received the designation.

In math test scores, 97.6 percent of South students met or exceeded state standards, according to state figures. In reading, 99.7 percent of students met or exceeded standards.

“South Forsyth Middle School posted great scores in both reading and math this past year and has large percentages of their students exceeding standard,” said Lissa Pijanowski, associate superintendent.

Previous Forsyth elementary schools of excellence include Big Creek, Chattahoochee, Daves Creek, Matt, Mashburn, Midway and Sharon.

Forsyth Central, North Forsyth and South Forsyth high schools have also earned the distinction.

Tinsley, who is in her second year at the helm of South, said the staff has focused on student learning and using data to assess what they know, as well as determining the next steps in designing instruction.

“I challenged my staff to try some new things and we definitely were working really hard to make sure that we put student achievement as the most important aspect of what we did every day,” she said.