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Dawson County Middle School recognized as Georgia Lighthouse School to Watch
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Staff of Dawson County Middle School pose at the school prior to receiving the Georgia Lighthouse and National Forum School to Watch Award on Friday, March 6. - photo by Photo submitted

On Friday, March 6, Dawson County Middle School was officially recognized as a Georgia Lighthouse and National Forum School to Watch.

In a ceremony on the morning of March 6, state, local and school district officials gathered at Dawson County Middle School along with the entire staff and student body to celebrate the school’s achievement. The program included musical performances by the seventh grade chorus and band, as well as spoken remarks by Dawson County Schools Superintendent Damon Gibbs and Georgia Department of Education Director of Curriculum and Instruction Justin Hill.

The school was presented with an official Lighthouse award, and each staff member received a Lighthouse pin. 

During the ceremony, Dr. Randi Sagona, principal of Dawson County Middle School, said that all in attendance were excited to help celebrate the distinction, including the students.

“Our entire student body attended the celebration, and they honestly seemed to be just as excited as the staff,” Sagona said.

The National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform established the Schools to Watch designation as a way to recognize eligible middle schools across the country. In order to qualify for the distinction, schools must prove that they are high-performing in each of four domains: academic excellence, developmental responsiveness, social equity and organizational structures and processes.

Sagona said that the discussion of whether or not to apply as a School to Watch began two years ago.

“When we first began the discussion about whether to apply to become a Georgia Lighthouse School to Watch, we read through the specific requirements for each domain and we just kept saying ‘oh, we do that,’” Sagona said. “It became clear to us pretty quickly that we might have what it takes to earn this national designation.”

The application process included a self-study, a written application by the school, and a site visit by the Lighthouse team in October of 2019. On Dec. 12, the school received a call saying that they had been selected as Georgia’s newest Lighthouse School to Watch.

“There are currently only 16 other middle schools, out of over 500 in our state, that hold the Lighthouse designation,” She said. “So we joined a very elite group.”

Sagona said that she hopes the distinction helps show how special Dawson County Middle School is.

“I have known for years that Dawson County Middle School is truly one of the best our country has to offer, and I hope everyone else now realizes what a gem this community has in DCMS,” Sagona said. “Our staff is second to none; they will do whatever is necessary to help a child succeed and they never stop trying to improve. I want the community to know that their sixth and seventh graders are surrounded by a staff that are not only top-notch instructors, but that also understands the needs of middle grades at a level that goes much deeper than classroom instruction.”

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Leadership at Dawson County Middle School accept the Georgia Lighthouse and National Forum School to Watch Award on Friday, March 6. - photo by Photo submitted