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Washington Middle School recently had three teams take first place prizes in different competitions, which were recognized at the El Dorado School Board meeting Monday.

A Washington Middle School fifth-grade team placed first in a Future City competition in Arlington, Texas. Future City is a project-based learning program where fifth-grade through eighth-graders imagine, research, design and build cities of the future.

This year’s theme was to build a city accessible for all ages. It was also the first year that fifth-grade students were allowed to participate in the competition, in which a fifth-grade Washington Middle School team brought home first place.

A Washington Middle School sixth-grade team placed first in best overall essay … “which means they even beat out the essay for the city that did bring home first place,” said Christina Turner. “The judges were impressed with the depth of knowledge they had. The academic vocabulary the judges said were off the charts. The judges were also blown away with the amount of research they put in it.”

The Washington Middle School cinematography class, taught by Michael Herren, placed first in the Arkansas Digital Learning Day 2018 Video Contest competition.

Herren said employees from the Arkansas Department of Education visited the middle school to present the award to the students. The theme for Arkansas was visual counting creation, students teaching students.

The Washington Middle School students chose division using the chunking method as their video topic, which Herren said they came up with all on their own.

Superintendent Jim Tucker discussed the State Board of Education and the Commissioner of Education’s visit to El Dorado last Wednesday. Tucker said they wanted to come to El Dorado and see what Washington and El Dorado High School were doing, and they were “blown away.”

“The Commissioner of Education was impressed,” Tucker said. “And as of right now, we’re the only school in this part of the state that they have come to visit.”

In other business, Vicki Harmon, mentoring coordinator for Adopt-a-School initiative through Wyatt Baptist Church, discussed information about the initiative. The program is part of the SHARE Foundation’s initiative to reduce community violence.

Harmon said the Adopt-a-School initiative was granted money by the SHARE Foundation to help other churches join the mentoring program in El Dorado and Union County.

The program was started at Yocum Elementary three years ago. Currently, the Adopt-a-School initiative has 25 mentors with 35 children in the district. “In a district of 4,000 (students), that’s not enough,” she said.

Harmon said she knows in the past three years that the children involved with this program have seen improved grades, behavior and even attendance. “We want all of these students to reach their full potential,” Harmon said.

There will be a special one-day training program on April 6 at the TAC House. The training will be a six-hour workshop that will offer pastors and church leaders the building blocks for starting or enhancing the delivery of social services to youth and their families.

Harmon said she believes there will be 25 to 30 other churches from El Dorado attending the training. There are already five churches that said they have decided they are going to take on one or more schools, before even attending the training, Harmon said.

“This is just an outstanding program that you can use to reach students that maybe might not have somebody that could reach them consistently for long-term,” Tucker said. “It’s a game changer.”

In addition to attending the six-hour training, there will be background checks done on potential mentors. “There’s a lot that goes into it and it’s very detailed,” Harmon said. “We don’t want to just send anyone. We have the children’s best interest at heart and try to protect them and protect the church.”

In other business, Kate Vernon, a high school senior and four-year member of the EHS Student Council, said the Doggy Dash raised over $2,000 for UCAPS.

The Doggy Dash was a 5K run/walk that was sponsored by the Save the Animals Club, a new club at EHS this year. Participants had the opportunity to run or walk with their own dog or a dog from UCAPS.

The EHS theater department is also gearing up for their spring musical, “High School Musical,” which will be performed in April.

Kaitlyn Rigdon can be reached at 870-862-6611 or

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