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Parents note new attitude, sense of pride at Warrington Middle School

Warrington Middle Positivity signs 2.jpg
Sandra Averhart
WUWF Public Media
Signs posted in the Warrington Middle School cafeteria are a reminder of the positive atmosphere promoted by teachers and staff this past year.

For the last decade or so, it’s been a bumpy ride at Warrington Middle School.

Located in southwest Escambia County, the school has struggled after receiving eight consecutive years of low-performing grades, including one F, from the Florida Department of Education, in addition to a couple of years of lost learning due to the pandemic.

With a state-approved School Turnaround Plan, including help from an external operator, and extra support from the Escambia County School District during the 2021-2022 school year, students and staff at Warrington Middle have been under intense pressure to improve to a passing grade of C to avoid transition to a charter school.

“To be honest, I think the last year has been the school’s best,” said Ernie Hogan, a military veteran, whose son Michael has attended Warrington Middle for three years and just finished eighth grade.

Weighing in a few days after the school year ended, Hogan said he noticed a change in his son, explaining that in previous years he would regularly ask to stay home for no apparent reason.

Now, he says Michael is enjoying school.

“This year, he’s wanted to go to school every single day. He’s improved his social skills. He’s gotten overly interested in math,” began Hogan, who also boasted that his son was the only eighth-grade member of the Escambia High School Band drumline.

Hogan credited his son’s interest and commitment to band to the extra attention he received from the school’s band director, Caleb Lovely.

Michael and Ernie Hogan.jpg
Sandra Averhart
WUWF Public Media
Ernie Hogan poses with his son Michael, who attended Warrington Middle School for three years and just completed eighth grade.

But, he acknowledged that there really was a positive shift in attitude and effort throughout the school.

“I think across the whole staff, the teachers and the principal are really interested in the school doing better and they’re making the kids think that they’re capable of doing better,” he said.

Another area of improvement was in the communication between parents, students and teachers.

“If there’s something that is not right, I will call,” said Stephanie Crapps, whose daughter Issys just completed sixth grade at Warrington Middle.

Crapps noted her daughter’s initiative to keep her grades up in order to be on the school’s flag team, but also pointed to her teachers' quick response when intervention was needed.

“If she asked for help, she got it. And, if they needed the extra help to push her to do, they would call me and we would sit and talk about her work,” Crapps declared.

When the school year was set to start, Crapps said she and her husband, Douglas, were skeptical about sending their child to Warrington Middle because of its reputation as a low-performing school.

Since Issys would be attending for the first time, there was no reference for comparison.

But, the family had previous experience with Denny Wilson, who led the turnaround from a D to an A at Oakcrest Elementary School, and Crapps said she was sold when Wilson was hired as principal at Warrington.

Stephanie and Douglas Crapps.jpg
Sandra Averhart
WUWF Public Media
Stephanie and Douglas Crapps were pleased with how the school year went for their daughter, who just finished sixth grade at Warrington Middle School.

“As far as working with him being a principal at another school, he had my other children. He's done a great job and I put my faith in him,” she proclaimed.

Because of the school’s run of low-performing test scores and school grades, it’s been closely scrutinized and subject to being taken over by the state.

That cloud over the school hasn’t gone unnoticed by students there.

“The first two years to me were kind of the hardest, because the school was kind of like, ‘We might get shut down, we might not get shut down,’ and there was always that worry that next year you might not be here,” acknowledged departing eighth-grader Michael Hogan, whose dad, Ernie, gave him permission to share his perspective.

According to the 14-year-old, the COVID-19 pandemic made his first two years at Warrington Middle even more challenging, and his grades reflected it.

But, this past year, was a different story.

“I’d say I’m pretty proud about how I performed. Last year, I was getting bad grades because Remote Learning was just so hard. This year I’m getting A’s and B’s,” he said. “It’s just a good feeling.”

Michael gives thanks to the school’s improved core of teachers, who not only boosted academics, but also helped to instill a sense of school pride and ownership among the students.

“Most of the kids want to pass, even though they’ll say, ‘Oh, I want the school to shut down,’ deep down, they want the school to succeed,” Michael admitted. “You don’t want to be a part of the reason that a school failed; you want to be a part of the reason the school went up.”

Even though he’s moving on to high school, Michael and his father said they want and feel confident Warrington Middle School will get a "C" or better for the just-concluded school year, when school grades are released in a few weeks.

If the "C" grade is not attained, the school will face transition to a charter school.

That scenario is a real concern for Crapps, who then would have to make decisions about where to send her daughter for seventh grade.

For now, she’s keeping positive thoughts about Warrington. Otherwise, she maintained, “I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.”