By: Joe Simo, Principal
Deep in southwestern Colorado, at the base of the San Juan Mountains, in the midst of the Uncompahgre Valley and beside a river of the same name, lies a school that reaches close to 600 students each year. Centennial Middle School hosts students from families who for generations have farmed the valley floor, students from families who temporarily migrate through to help in the harvest, students who work with their families in the restaurants and stores that make our little community run, and students for whom our school is the single safest space they know. Within our 6th-8th grade halls we have students reading at a near collegiate level and students learning English for the first time. Students studying advanced Algebra and students filling gaps from their earliest math instruction. We have students that are hungry and students who are well fed, some securely housed and some without homes, students right on track and others trying to find their track. It is this diversity of learners, and the clear urgency to adapt and grow to meet their needs, that brought Centennial’s mission into focus.
To that end, when Principal Joe Simo took over at the start of the 2014 school year, he pulled his entire staff together, and as a team, they curated a shared school vision that resulted in a powerful mission statement that governs our school from the inside out. The mission statement reads: Within a challenging and joyful learning environment, where relationships come first, Centennial Middle School will leverage quality teaching, character education, and a rigorous curriculum to inspire a lifetime of learning. With these guideposts for decision-making, Centennial has grown into a school that centers whole-child instruction and whole-person wellness, for both students and staff. It’s a school that encourages innovation in the form of student choice, unique technology options, and a one-of-a-kind robotics program, a popular highlight in what is the the longest list of electives of any middle school in the valley. Centennial created a robust MTSS program that stretches from academic needs to behavioral supports and dedicates regular meeting times for evaluation and adjustments in reaching each child. We are a school whose staff collaboratively curated a rigorous curriculum in each subject area, with scaffolded instructional options, a variety of differentiated learning opportunities, and purposeful plans that are built from data-based decision making and educator expertise.
The result? Centennial Middle School was ranked as a Performance School in 2015-2016, 2017-2018, 2018-2019, 2020-2022, and 2022-2023. They’ve contributed to the Colorado Department of Education’s Promising Practice Video Series sharing their teaching best practices statewide, and as of this writing, celebrated seven teachers in every core content area that were chosen as the Montrose County School District Teacher of the Year from 2012 to present day. Last but not least, of course, Centennial Middle School has earned the designation of Colorado Trailblazer School to Watch from 2017 through 2026.
Intrinsic awards abound as well. Centennial is a school that students and staff want to come to, want to work for, and are able to grow in. Which is really what everything boils down to: universal growth. We genuinely believe that every child can grow while they are with us. Be it academically, emotionally, athletically, in their curiosity, talents and dreams, in their sense of self-worth. Centennial is a place where teachers and staff are valued, students are centered, and where, as a community, we end each school year more than we were before because we finish each school year having learned something new, together.