District’s oldest middle school celebrates anniversary

Celebrating the school’s jubilee anniversary, J.B. Martin Middle School alumnus posed for this photography at Friday’s celebration.

While celebrating J.B. Martin Middle School’s jubilee anniversary, many of the original and current administrators described the celebration as more like a homecoming with family.

“The school is all about people,” said Fred Seal, the school’s first principal from 1968 to 1978, said to a crowd that packed the school gym. “We develop the talents that God has given them to become what he intended them to be.”

Seal said their job was to teach students to be kind to each other, love each other and to be diligent in their efforts… “to be the best they can be.”

In Seal’s time, the campus had one building with 22 classrooms and 800 students.

The school’s first basketball coach, Bill Sirmon, recalled them practicing outside because they didn’t have an indoor place at the time. If there was inclement weather, there was no practice.

It’s 1974 for these cheerleaders in formation at J.B. Martin Middle School.

When Sirmon later returned to the campus, it had a gym

“It was a huge family,” recalled Dianne Rochelle about the campus where she served as principal in 1992-93 and again in 1995 to 2004. “Pay attention to how they love you,’”

Rochelle recounted feeling a camaraderie she considers so important to a middle school where children learn human relations.

It wasn’t uncommon for students to return to the school to thank their teachers for this personal attention.

“What a great place to be with people who love you so much,” Rochelle said.

Erin Granier, the school’s principal from 2004 to 2016, learned on arrival a new 45,000-square-foot building would be built on the campus in 2006.

1968 photograph of J.B. Martin’s science lab..

Shortly after, Granier, currently the system’s executive director of elementary schools, also learned sixth grade was coming to J.B. Martin Middle, which meant bringing 306 new students from R.J. Vial and Lakewood elementary schools there. They were considered “new family members.”

The response was, “We got this,” she said.

“No more sharing classrooms,” Granier said of gaining more than 33 classrooms. “They’re going to be rocking it now.”

J.B. Martin Middle Principal Steven Guitterrez said he is the fourth Guitterrez to work at the school, which he described as “the best middle school in the universe.” He is eager to continue the school system’s standard of excellence.

Superintendent Felecia Gomez-Walker congratulated everyone at the school for celebrating the 50th anniversary and contributing to the school system’s “culture of excellent.”

J.B. Martin Middle is the oldest middle school in the system with 840 students and 23 buses, she added. In 2012, the gym was expanded to its current size.

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