300 Colorado educators attend Holmes’ Schools to Watch conference

       Holmes Middle School hosted the Colorado Schools to Watch Annual Conference Feb. 10. About 300 educators from 16 districts in Colorado were on hand. The attraction was the chance to learn some of the strategies the Westside school has employed in being designated a Trailblazer School to Watch and ranked among the top four public middle schools in the state.
       “It was so neat to sponsor it. Our entire staff was here,” Principal Brenda LeBrasse said. She added, referring to evaluations attendees turned in, “You should see the compliments we're getting.”
       Colorado Schools to Watch had asked Holmes to sponsor the event after its selection last year.
       The National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform initiated the Schools to Watch effort in 1999 as a way to highlight high-performing middle schools.
       According to Holmes Assistant Principal Carolyn Fisher, who served as conference coordinator, the purpose was “to promote the Schools to Watch program and also to highlight the things we have in place at our school that made us a School to Watch.”
       During the several-hour conference, attendees chose among 36 sessions, 13 of which were taught by Holmes instructors. One of the subjects, Fisher said, involved Holmes teachers' approaches to “differentiated instruction” - a nationally known philosophy by which students in a class get the same materials but in individualized ways depending on how they learn best.
       LeBrasse thanked District 11 administrative officials for helping with the costs of the conference, particularly in paying for the two keynote speakers and food for the attendees (breakfast and lunch). Registration fees also helped defray costs.
       On hand were D-11 Superintendent Terry Bishop and Assistant Superintendent Mary Thurman.
       The keynote speakers were Kathy Hunt Ullock, who has been instrumental in national middle school reform; and Dr. La Vonne Neal, dean of of the College of Education at UCCS.

Westside Pioneer article