LEAD Neely’s Bend Middle School joined the LEAD Public Schools network in 2015, but has been a part of the Madison community just north of the Nashville city center for over 60 years. Neely’s Bend continues to value the traditions of the community while also taking its students to the next level academically.
Principal Dominique Smith first started as a sixth-grade math teacher at Neely’s Bend almost six years ago. From there, she served as an instructional coach and assistant principal of instruction before becoming the principal.
One of the aspects of her school that Principal Smith is most proud of is the legacy of the school in the area.
“Neely’s Bend is truly a neighborhood school, with various generations of family members attending,” said Smith. “It’s not uncommon to hear, ‘Wow this looks so different from when I attended,’ or to see students graduate, then their younger siblings come through our doors years later.”
“We have a healthy mix of students that come from families that are new to the Madison community, as well as families that have been in this community for years. It is so special to get to meet and serve younger siblings and cousins of students that were in my very first group of students that I taught here at Neely’s. But we also get to welcome new families into the fold. This balance allows us to show the Madison community as a whole that we are dedicated to providing the education this community deserves, that learning and growing is impactful, and that we love this community and young people in it!” – Christina Hale, Intervention Instructional Manager at LEAD Neely’s Bend.
Bridgett Orgain has been at Neely’s Bend for over eight years, where she has taught art, and has taken on additional roles as eighth grade chair, seventh grade chair, and content lead for electives. For Orgain, the uniqueness of LEAD Neely’s Bend lies in the support structures available to students and staff.
“In addition to providing high-quality teachers, LEAD also has coaches for teachers, counselors for students, and a student support team,” said Orgain. “There is a strong support structure to make our rigorous goals achievable.”
“The best part of my job is when a student reaches a milestone that they did not originally think was attainable. Most of the students I see do not come in feeling confident about their abilities, and it is a genuine joy to build them up to where they know they can do it.” – Bridgett Orgain, Teacher at LEAD Neely’s Bend.
A unique aspect about the campus at LEAD Neely’s Bend is that it sits on over 30 acres of land and is nicknamed “The Bend” because of where it is located on the Cumberland River.
Devin Phillips, an 8th-grade student at LEAD Neely’s Bend – and the school president – has seen his school’s intentional efforts to prepare him for a successful future. “I appreciate how much the adults at Neely’s want us to succeed beyond middle school,” he said. “So many people have worked together to help me plan my future!”
Even the youngest students at Neely’s Bend are encouraged to think about what comes next after high school. Ashaunti Key, a 5th-grade student at Neely’s Bend, said, “When I grow up I want to be a doctor and I want to attend Fisk college here in Nashville.” She also values the unique celebrations Neely’s Bend offers throughout the year. When asked what makes her school unique, she said, “The different programs we have like pep rallies and Black History Month and my favorite teachers.”
Natasha Buckingham, a teacher at LEAD Neely’s Bend and long-time staff member with seven years under her belt, knows better than most what makes the school special. “LEAD Neely’s Bend is unique because of how diverse the entire school is from staff to students. We meet everyone where they are and make sure we help them to feel included,” she said.
“The thing I love most about my job is the relationships I build with the students and their families. With being at Neely’s Bend for as long as I have, you really become a part of a student’s extended family. Being able to be a part of their journey in life and seeing their accomplishments are really what helps me remember my why.” – Natasha Buckingham, Teacher at LEAD Neely’s Bend.
As LEAD Neely’s Bend follows its mission to utilize rigorous curricula and emphasize character development to help students build the skills they need for long-term success, the school is also committed to providing positive, honest family engagement. All parents are provided weekly updates on their child’s progress and have the opportunity to attend regular meetings with the school administration. With the ongoing leadership and dedication of staff members like Smith, Orgain, Hale, and Buckingham, LEAD Neely’s Bend remains a place where students are set up to thrive as they enter high school and beyond.
For more information about LEAD Neely’s Bend, please visit: https://leadpublicschools.org/schools/neelys-bend/.