Carmel Valley Middle School’s secret recipe: Innovation and collaboration

By Gloria Limas An

When you ask Carmel Valley Middle School (CVMS) principal Laurie Brady how a school with 1,550 stays on track and provides an exceptional education she will answer without hesitation, “We have a staff of cutting-edge educators who promote a culture of adaptation. They have a can-do attitude with regard to new technology, allowing our students to be prepared for the 21st century.” The school’s debut of a new assembly schedule is a clear example. The change is in accordance with strategic planning guidelines which outline the shift this year to the Common Core standards.

Brady says there are three components to the changes implemented. They include the need for immediate re-teach, more collaboration time and keeping the students connected to the school which is where the assembly schedule comes into play. The monthly assemblies focus on timely topics, such as anti drug campaigns.

Another school transition is the change to becoming a paperless educational facility. Brady explains, “The single highest cost from the general budget, other than teacher salaries, is copies and paper. Going paperless is a not only cost effective, but also allows the school to incorporate the green factor. We are in digital times and we have to align ourselves with the corporate world.”

This initiative ties in with the already existing online grade portal known as Aeries and the file submission portal known as the Blackboard. Students are able to use an electronic device to check on their grade status and submit assignments. CVMS also has the added feature of the “flip classroom” where students are able to do homework in class via electronic devices, as well as view instructional videos pertaining to the subject matter at home. The topic is then reviewed in class with teachers providing support to those students in need of additional instruction.

An online feature unique to CVMS, which was created by the school’s assistant principal, Adam Camacho, is a series of “cyber detention” modules. They consist of scenario- based role playing storylines meant to be efficient and effective for students who will hopefully make better decisions in the future.

Principal Brady says Prop AA funds will allow for a new school network this year so that students can have up to three electronic learning devices without being boggled down with network issues. The school library and media center are slated to be renovated this summer as well.

This is also the first year the school’s Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) goes paperless with its membership. Liza Kay, the vice president of membership, says while the numbers are down from this time last year, change towards progress always requires a ramp up curve.

“We are excited to go paperless this year. It’s a huge commitment. The hardest factor is getting the word out to parents. It seems without constant paper reminders, parents forget to sign up. It’s happened to so many families this year! We are hoping to make up the numbers and surpass the 500-plus figure during the second half of the school year.”

She adds that the PTSA membership supports many programs that would otherwise not be available to students due to budget cuts. An example is the recent purchase of Chromebooks available to students at the school media center. Parents who are not familiar with the new on-line PTSA sign up can visit