As new administrators at Mountain View Middle School, principal Terry McElligott and assistant principal Cassandra Thonstad have made it a goal to encourage parent and community involvement in just about everything they do.
So when it came time to spruce up the building over the summer, they reached out to families and, over the past two weeks, were pleased to see a steady stream of students, parents and staff volunteers step up to paint the majority of the school.
"What I like is that a variety of parents and students have come and helped us," McElligott said. "People have been honest about wanting to help and the ability to fit it around plans they have already made for the summer."
Thonstad said that in general, middle school is often a time when parents, even those who were involved in their child's elementary school, take a step back from volunteering. One reason, she said, is that parents are less confident about the role they can play in middle school, where their student now has seven or more teachers compared to just one primary instructor in elementary school.
"So we're trying to invite families and parents back into the building when they might not know what their place is, well here's a way," Thonstad said. "And if you ask, people showed up. It's not that there's an unwillingness. It's a 'we're not really sure how to do that.' I'm excited about some of the work we're going to do this year to really build a parent group here that is really strong and integrated with our staff as a team because we can't do this alone."
The goal of the painting project is to make the building feel more inviting, especially to students. Thonstad and McElligott opted for brighter versions of the school colors, green and blue, as the two main shades found throughout the building.
"All of the new colors will match," Thonstad said. "Both of them look good with the tile downstairs and the carpet upstairs, so it will feel a bit more themed."
Thonstad also believes that because the new paint is a bit darker, it will stand up better to the wear and tear of normal use better than the previous light blue color, which they now refer to as "institutional" blue.
"Kids can take really good care of it for the most part, but then you can still tell it's dirty," Thonstad said. "So in terms of it feeling like a respected place for people to be, it doesn't feel that way when we have dirt all over the walls. The greens and blues are just dark enough that they will hide a lot more of that, I think."
As of Monday, the walls of the cafeteria, a few hallways and the fitness room were yet to be completed, but McElligott said they will be done by fall, even if that means taking up the work again in August. There are also plans to make other small improvements around the school, like separating the staff workroom from the staff lounge.
"You can't relax when the copier is just going and going," McElligott said. "We're just trying to figure out how to make it more friendly to everyone."
She was also encouraged by the response she got from students when she asked them to participate in interviews for the school's new band director.
"I had 25 middle school and high school students here to play so I could see the candidates conduct and interact with students," McElligott said. "Many parents stayed and watched too. For students and parents to take their time during their vacation to help in any way shows how much they value what happens here at school."