Putting The Needs Of Students First

Putting The Needs Of Students First
Polo Park Middle School Principal Michael Aronson Aims To Provide A Top-Notch Educational Environment

Story by Deborah Welky | Photos by Denise Fleischman

When Polo Park Middle School opened along southern Wellington’s fast-growing Lake Worth Road corridor in August 2000, it became the community’s second middle school.

Now 22 years later, Polo Park is led by Principal Michael Aronson, who has been serving in that position for four years, since taking over in August 2018.

Aronson grew up attending Broward County public schools, where he got an extra dose of attention in his early teen years.

“My mother taught at my middle school, so any time I remotely got into anything I wasn’t supposed to, she knew about it immediately and it was corrected quickly,” Aronson recalled. “So, my path was pretty straight and narrow.”

Yet in high school, a guidance counselor told him to give up the college prep classes he had been taking and get onto a vocational track. Fortunately, his college advisor disagreed.

“She was a big influence in my life,” Aronson said. “Her name was Patti Skelton, and she told me to do what I thought was best for me. She saw a different person in me than my guidance counselor saw. She thought I was destined for good things and that college should be in my future.”

Aronson took her advice, attaining both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Georgia Southern University before becoming a physical education and health sciences teacher at a high school in Georgia.

“I considered becoming a college soccer coach but, once I got into education, within a couple of years, I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” Aronson said. “Seeing the difference I could make in kids’ lives, education was where I wanted to remain.”

Aronson later returned to Florida to teach physical education at Palm Beach Lakes and Wellington high schools. It was at Wellington High School that Aronson decided to pivot into administration, cheered on by then-Principal Cheryl Alligood, who went on to serve as chief academic officer for the School District of Palm Beach County.

“She would push me to get everything I needed to get done to become an administrator,” Aronson recalled. “She saw a lot of great leadership qualities in me. I had my degree when I moved to Florida, but there was a lot of red tape I needed to push through in order to get things done.”

That will to push through stood Aronson in good stead during the pandemic. “The biggest challenge for me as a principal has been getting through the last three years and getting the kids caught up to where they need to be,” he said. “They needed to get reacclimated to being back in the building. They needed to remember how to behave in a classroom. And they needed to get the information that they didn’t necessarily get while they were home, especially in math. We have an engineering program here at Polo Park Middle School, so STEM is big for our school. We needed to get them ready for that high level math by remediating their math skills.”

Yet Aronson can take pride in the fact that his teachers continue to steer kids in the right direction despite the setbacks of the pandemic.

“We want to continue providing our students the quality education they’ve been accustomed to getting,” he said. “The teachers are just happy to not have to do hybrid teaching, to have the kids back in front of them again where they can give them the attention they need to make sure they’re successful.”

At Polo Park, the successes are many. More than 600 students make the honor roll every six weeks. The baseball team recently won the county championship. The girls volleyball team won all their divisions. And the robotics team won the state championship, then placed 36th in the world championships.

“Kids are always kids,” Aronson said. “They need structure and leadership, but in the last couple of years, social skills are something we’ve had to reteach. They’ve been home for two years with no friends around or even family. Some kids have changed their personalities permanently because of that. Sometimes the change is good, sometimes it’s bad — it depends on the kid.”

Aronson’s goals for the future are to continue to grow as a principal and leader.

“I can’t rest on my laurels,” he said. “I must continue to grow every year to make sure the school staff and kids get the best part of me. I want Polo Park to continue to be an A-rated school with top-notch academic, athletic and robotics programs. I also want to see the continued success of all the other activities that are overlooked. We have a lot of great things that go on here.”