Strong culture, expectations lead to excellence
The motto of Jay M. Robinson Middle is all of three words: culture, expectations and excellence. There is a strong peer culture among staff members that in turn creates strong staff-student relationships, which are essential for students to flourish. Students also are held to a high standard and strong expectations.
“If we believe that they can do it and create those expectations, excellence will be the byproduct,” said Principal Mike Miliote. “That’s the magic, and it’s working. Right before [the COVID-19 pandemic], we were No. 1 in the state for math growth. For the last three or four years, we’ve been in the top 1% for growing kids in the state, and that’s not just math, that’s all subjects combined, so I’m really proud of that.”
Miliote has spent eight years as principal at Jay M. Robinson, where students across demographics have exceeded growth and the TNTP’s Instructional Culture Insight Survey – taken by teachers – is consistently in the 93rd to 95th percentile. Miliote recently was named the South Learning Community Principal of the Year, saying he was excited and humbled by the honor because he works with so many good principals.
“Mike is an outstanding principal who truly epitomizes being a leader,” said John Wall, South Learning Community superintendent. “He goes beyond the call of duty to assist students, parents and the staff members of Jay M. Robinson Middle School. He is well respected by his fellow principals and is often sought out for his advice and help. He is an excellent candidate for CMS Principal of the Year."
Miliote hails from Manalapan, N.J., and attended East Carolina University, where he majored in middle grade education. He moved to Charlotte to teach seventh grade at Carmel Middle, was assistant principal at Ballantyne Elementary and principal at Matthews Elementary before moving to Jay M. Robinson.
“I always knew I wanted to get back to middle school,” Miliote said. “I just thought middle school was kind of the sweet spot. They’re not too old, they’re not too young. They’re impressionable, but you can also have an impact and it’s relatable.”
Miliote regularly meets with students to gain their insight and problem solve, and he is always evaluating how students are achieving and the opportunities being created for them. Like a mini-high school, Jay M. Robinson offers 35 extracurricular activities where students can connect with adults, each other and find something they are passionate about. He said there is a misconception that the school is homogeneous; in fact, there are about 57 languages spoken there.
“I love this place,” Miliote said. “We’ve got a good breakdown here, and I think the school’s just gotten stronger because it’s representative of the world. It’s great.”