Middle School

Creating A School Community at JL Simpson Middle School

By Lenny Compton

Leesburg, Virginia is a bustling town with a unique blend of burgeoning urban development and a historic, rural charm.  JL Simpson Middle School, one of three middle schools within the parameters of Leesburg, is representative of the town’s blend — easily serving as one of the most economically and demographically diverse schools within the 90+ Loudoun County Public Schools.

In a school with such diversity, the leadership team had a strong desire to ensure that we had a caring culture and a sense of community. In 2017, the student perceptual data revealed that we needed to do something with intention and with proven results to help us build the community. At that time:

  • Less than 45% of our student body believed other students demonstrated respect for differences.  
  • A sobering 34% of students agreed that students were kind to one another.  

It was evident we needed to help our students understand that #otherpeoplematter and character development could support this initiative.

Looking at these numbers as an immediate call to action to improve.  We examined programs and reviewed research through AMLE. We knew implementing an advisory program would be a great first step, but we did not want teachers to have “one more thing” to do.   We looked at multiple programs and found a neighboring district had experienced a lot of success with The Positivity Project. 

Knowing several professionals there, we took a trip to a few middle schools and saw how easily one could be attracted to the goals of P2. In one school, they honored students of the week who exhibited the characteristics of P2.  In another school, the characteristics were written throughout the building with images of students actively showcasing elements of P2.  Most notably were the conversations we had with students and staff. Students could easily identify what P2 represented and the staff spoke about how P2 helped expand the caring culture that was well-established.

Our team was convinced to give it a try!  We made P2 the centerpiece of our advisory program and saw instant results.  We recognized that students became more thoughtful of each other and teachers work diligently to use the characteristics within their lesson plans.  Our PBIS team went a step further and developed a choice board of the character strengths so advisory classes could have incentives to achieve (and compete!).  We also branded our school with the character strengths in every possible space.

Our student perceptual data from the following year amazed us! 

  • 84% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that students were kind to one another. 
  • 77% believed students respected the differences of others.

These numbers are attributed to several factors, but The Positivity Project is definitely one of them! We are proud to be partners with P2 and look forward to seeing the growth our students make as they learn more about character, supporting each other, and making positive contributions to their community!

Lenny Compton

Mr. Compton is entering his third year as the proud principal of JL Simpson Middle School. Prior to his principalship here, he was an assistant principal in Fairfax County, most recently at Kilmer Middle School in Vienna, Virginia. Mr. Compton began his teaching career in his hometown of Pontiac, Michigan, before pursuing a lifelong dream to teach overseas at the Khartoum American School in Sudan, Africa. He is an advocate for all children and believes that an empowering education is a clear pathway to support students to be active contributors and change-makers to society. Mr. Compton has attended Morehouse College, Oakland University (Rochester, Michigan), and the University of Cincinnati. When not working, Mr. Compton enjoys spending quality time -mostly outdoors- with his wife (also an educator) and their two young boys.