They’re serious about emphasizing fine arts at Westglades Middle School in Parkland. How do we know? Because hundreds of students are involved in music, theatre, and visual arts programs. The school has a strings orchestra, a band, and a chorus. It’s part of the school’s strategy to create well-rounded students.
"Making sure that we have electives that are something that the students want to be a part of, having extracurricular activities, we have 21 different clubs and activities that kids can be a part of so that draws them into the school, it helps them to develop socially and emotionally," said principal Matt Bianchi.
The music program alone has 260 kids involved, and about half of them start in sixth grade as total beginners. The music director says that’s an important message for parents, that wherever your child goes to school, he or she does not have to play an instrument prior to joining the school band.
"You don’t need to have experience playing an instrument or reading music, I myself joined because I thought it would be fun and it did so much for me socially and emotionally," said Claire Bogdan, Westglades’ band director.
Thanks to a major donation from the school’s PTA, the media center has been upgraded with a massive infusion of technology along with colorful, modern furniture groupings. It’s having the intended effect.
"We've seen a huge increase in student participation in here, they want to be in the room, they want to use the new technology, the new furniture, they want to come in and create," said media director Jenny Stratos.
The library was designed to foster collaboration. For example, students can plug their devices into one multi-screen monitor and they can all share the videos they’re creating simultaneously. Of course, there are charging ports all over the room.
Westglades says it has the only middle school DECA club in the state. The kids in the finance program are learning all about financial literacy and entrepreneurship. They can also earn industry certifications in areas like Microsoft Word, the same certifications adults earn.
Whatever they’re doing at Westglades is working. Yes, the school is blessed with a wealthy PTA and a community which supports it, but it still is quite an achievement to have the highest academic rating of any public middle school in South Florida. Westglades scored more points toward an "A" rating than any other middle school.
That’s a title worthy of celebration.