BISMARCK, N.D., Oct. 1, 2018 – State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler on Monday congratulated three North Dakota schools for being named as "National Blue Ribbon Schools" for 2018.
They are Central Valley School, a K-12 school in Buxton, a Traill County community about 25 miles south of Grand Forks; Freedom Elementary, in West Fargo; and Richland Elementary, in Abercrombie, a Richland County community about 20 miles north of Wahpeton.
"This is fantastic news, and it spotlights the hard work and dedication to our North Dakota students that is happening in these schools and across our state," Baesler said. She will visit each of the three schools later this year to celebrate the honor with students, staff, leaders, and their communities, the superintendent said.
"Achieving Blue Ribbon School recognition is a rare thing in our country, and it requires a huge amount of effort," Baesler said. "These schools deserve recognition and applause from all North Dakotans."
Each year, the U.S. Department of Education recognizes a group of schools across the country as Blue Ribbon Schools. Not all states are represented. It is the second consecutive year that three North Dakota schools have been honored. In 2017, Kindred Elementary, Fargo’s Longfellow Elementary and West Fargo’s Legacy Elementary were named as Blue Ribbon schools.
The Department of Education recognizes schools in which students achieve high learning standards or register substantial improvements in their learning. All three North Dakota schools were recognized as "exemplary high performing schools." Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced the chosen schools at a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Monday.
Administrators at the three schools said they were honored and humbled by the Blue Ribbon School designation.
"I am so very, very proud of my staff. They work so well together, and I think that is what truly makes a difference for our kids," said Cindy Erbes, principal of Richland Elementary. "I am just so glad they are being recognized for their hard work.
"We’re a tight-knit community with very supportive parents. Really, everybody knows everybody. Our kids are everybody’s kids," Erbes said. "They’re not just the fifth-grade teacher’s kids, or the sixth graders aren’t just the sixth-grade teacher’s kids. We really know all of the kids and we support all of them in their social, emotional and academic growth."
Frank Justin, principal of Central Valley, said the Blue Ribbon School designation "is one of the highest honors a school can get. It takes dedicated teachers who are willing to go above and beyond for the kids. It’s great to be recognized for the hard work that all of our staff puts in, the hard work that our community puts into it, making sure that education is a priority.
"Our community really cares about our school. The parents really make education a priority for their kids," said Justin, who has been Central Valley’s principal for seven years. "I couldn’t ask to be in a better place."
Jeffry Johnson, principal of Freedom Elementary, said the award "takes a lot of teamwork and collaboration, and just staff and students and parents working together. A lot of setting goals, and looking at what we want to be as a school community, and making sure we’re all on the same page for how to help our kids learn and grow."
The Department of Education’s Blue Ribbon Schools application asks about each school’s leadership philosophy, instructional methods, curriculum, and testing; how the school engages and motivates students, their families, and the community; and how it provides a positive learning environment. The application also requests other data, including the school’s location, enrollment and demographics, and how many students have disabilities or are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.
Johnson called the application process "a good opportunity for us to really rethink the importance of what we do on a daily basis to work together, and the importance of curriculum and of teamwork, and just following through on education in general."
Justin said the process was "time-consuming, but it is stuff that we really focus on here."
"We really knew what we wanted to put in there, it was just a matter of taking the time to write it down, and word things how we wanted to," Justin said. "All the information they wanted was at the forefront of our minds."