Clermont Northeastern school rocketing to the stars 

By Dick Maloney

CLERMONT COUNTY, OH (February 9, 2023) – Rockets are designed to propel people to the stars, and Clermont Northeastern Middle School has been fulfilling that mission.

Under the Ohio Department of Education’s new method of evaluating schools, using a scale of one star to five stars instead of letter grades, CNE Middle School achieved four stars in two of three key components on the state report card, progress and gap closing, and three stars in the third, achievement. Schools did not receive an overall grade in 2022, but will in 2023, according to information on the website reportcard.education.ohio.gov.

Progress is defined as: “growth all students are making based on their past performances; a four-star rating indicates ‘significant evidence’ that the school exceeded student growth expectations.”

Gap closing measures “the reduction in educational gaps for student subgroups,” CNE’s four-star rating there means the school “exceeds state standards in closing educational gaps.”

Achievement “represents whether student performance on state tests met established thresholds and how well students performed on tests overall.” Three stars mean CNE Middle School meets state standards in that area.

The school’s ongoing efforts to improve student performance have also been recognized by the Southern Regional Education Board, which has named CNE Middle School as a winner of the Gene Bottoms Pacesetter School Award, which it will receive in June at the Making Schools Work conference in Orlando, Florida.

These milestones are a continuation of initiatives introduced in 2017 by Principal Laura Nazzarine, Assistant Principal Chuck Boothby, and the CNE MS staff.

“We were asked to present our data at a ‘High Schools That Work’ meeting,” said Nazzarine. “There were several local educational leaders present. One of them said that this is national work and needs to be recognized.”

CNE MS work is getting noticed both locally and nationally. One of those initiatives is a peer walkthrough, in which teachers observe colleagues and fill out a form about what they see in the classroom, which gives staff immediate data/feedback to use when improving instruction.

Steve Gill, a noted education expert, submitted a narrative to the SREB praising Nazzarine and Boothby, and the school’s Building Leadership Team meetings.

“These meetings allow the teachers to demonstrate their leadership roles as they actively participate in the discussions and openly present to fellow teachers while assuming the leadership role,” Gill wrote.

Example from the CNE Middle School website showing some schedule of events. (Provided)

Local school districts have visited the middle school to look at it as a model.  They have sent representatives to study CNE’s PBIS (Positive Behaviors Intervention and Support) efforts, instructional strategies, decision rules, and walk-throughs. 

“A team of six or seven people from East Clinton came here,” Boothby said. “Batavia has also contacted us about our PBIS program, and they actually purchased the PBIS Rewards system that we use. So we’ve got a whole system in place for positive behavior support, which is what a lot of people are interested in. What we do here is about how we deal with behavior and how we promote positive behavior.”

Nazzarine said faculty members who were part of the original building leadership team will present at the conference.

Team building and empowering staff are also important components of CNE’s continuous improvement plan.

“I believe that the most successful team is a team that can be honest. Sometimes honesty is hard, and involves having hard conversations,” Nazzarine said. “We strive to give honest feedback to one another so that we can be the best we can be for our students.”

Focus on data is crucial. A windowless office at the middle school is lined with color-coded spreadsheet printouts.

“Our teachers are very data-driven.  They are always looking for methods and materials to deliver solid instruction,” Nazzarine said. “We plan and then we have to implement that program with fidelity. You have to do it every day with consistency. Now our teachers and our students are seeing the results of that hard work.”

Nazzarine went on to share a litle insight abotu what they believe is key in doing the best for CNE’s Middle School stuudents and staff.

“I think one of the things that is super important to Chuck and myself is letting the teachers and students know how much we appreciate them and their hard work.  We are a team and we work hard for each other.  We don’t want to let them down,” Nazzarine said. “It is about going above and beyond, and always doing what is best for our CNE MS Rockets”

Gene Bottoms Pacesetter Award criteria

To be recognized as a Pacesetter School, schools must: 

  • Demonstrate engagement in SREB’s Making Schools Work network of schools by: 
  • Receiving technical assistance for the implementation of SREB’s Making Schools

Work framework of key practices; 

in 2021 or 2022; 

  • Participating in SREB’s 2021 or 2022 student and teacher surveys; and/or 
  • Attending the 2021 or 2022 Making Schools Work Conference
  • Provide evidence of taking actions to implement changes in school and classroom practices for at least one of the key practices; 
  • Provide evidence showing how students have achieved success due to the changes; 
  • Participate in the 2023 Making Schools Work Conference and present a session aligned with the key practice for which the school is being recognized.