New Courses, Successes at Lake Middle School

By Eric Heinz

Starting next school year, Lake Middle will begin offering courses through its Career Technical Education (CTE) program that will introduce students to opportunities outside standard instruction, such as engineering, cybersecurity and innovation.

Recently, Denver International Airport selected Lake Middle to participate in its Center of Equity and Excellence in Aviation Adopt-A-School program for the 2023-2024 school year.

Lacy Lavon McDonald, the husband of Lake Middle’s principal, Amanda McDonald, who volunteers at the school, said the aviation program is important for students at Lake, as people of color make up just a small fraction of the industry.

Some of the work in which students participate in the Adopt-A-School program includes using flight simulators, he said. Steve Smith, a teacher at Lake Middle School, said the school has been successful in introducing students to new areas of interest, such as advanced computer coding, DJing and sound engineering, and next year’s elective courses will be expanded.

Lake Middle School Principal Amanda McDonald, left, poses for a photo after the school received a “platinum status” from the Leverage Leadership Institute for its work to improve the educational environment and academic achievement over the last few years. Photo courtesy of Denver Public Schools

Smith said the importance of the CTE program is that students may one day be able to take their credits from the classes and apply them to schools like the Career Education Center Middle College and start taking more advanced classes without prerequisite training, but he said Lake is still working on that effort.


Principal McDonald recently completed a program called Uncommon Schools through the Leverage Leadership Institute, and after completing the program and providing datasets to the institute, it awarded Lake Middle a “platinum status,” one of only a few in the country, as an example of schools that provide exceptional school culture, academic progress and achievement.

“If any school wants to see what works, in terms of school culture, staff culture or lesson planning, we are the model for that,” Amanda McDonald said. The principal said as recently as five years ago, Lake was the lowest-performing school in Colorado and had “obvious significant problems.”

“(The) first mission was how to create an identity around being proud to be a Lake Knight, and so we focused on that for two years … heavily,” she said, adding within the last few years, the school has been able to completely flip its negative data into positives, such as curbing bullying and vandalism, all of which contributed to the platinum status.


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