Downstate schools garner National Blue Ribbon honors

LEWES – Two downstate Delaware schools are among 335 schools that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recognized Tuesday as 2015 National Blue Ribbon Schools, based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in improving student academic achievement.

Cape Henlopen School District’s Cape Henlopen High School and Lake Forest Elementary’s Lake Forest East Elementary School are among the 285 public and 50 private schools that will be honored at an awards ceremony Nov. 9-10 in Washington, D.C.

Caesar Rodney School District’s W. B. Simpson Elementary School also earned Blue Ribbon honors.

The schools’ principals — Brian Donahue (Cape Henlopen High School), Susan Piavis and James Dick (Lake Forest East Elementary School) and Michael Kijowski (W. B. Simpson Elementary School) — will be invited to attend the national awards ceremony with a teacher representative from each of their schools.

“This honor recognizes your students’ accomplishments and the hard work and dedication that went into their success,” Ms. Duncan said to the awardees in a video message. “Your journey has taught you collaboration, intentional instruction and strong relationships in school and with your community. You represent excellence – in vision, in implementation and in results – and we want to learn as much as we can from you.”

Michael Watson, Delaware’s chief academic officer, praised each school’s community for its partnership with educators and thanked the schools’ teachers and leaders for their hard work supporting student success.

“These teachers and leaders are strong examples of the exemplary efforts of educators across our state who work hard to ensure every child in every classroom in every school is learning and growing every day,” he said.

The award honors public and private elementary, middle and high schools whose students achieve at very high levels or have made significant improvements in students’ levels of achievement, especially among disadvantaged and minority students. Each year since 1982, the U.S. Department of Education has sought out schools where students attain and maintain high academic goals, including those that beat the odds. In its 32-year history, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed this coveted award on more than 8,000 of America’s schools.

Last year, Indian River School District’s John M. Clayton Elementary in Frankford was among the national honorees.

The Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes schools in one of two performance categories. The first category is “Exemplary High Performing Schools,” in which schools are among their state’s highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests. Student subgroup performance is also at the highest levels. The second category is “Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools,” in which schools are among their state’s highest performing schools in closing achievement gaps between a school’s subgroups and all students over the past five years. Student subgroup performance for each subgroup is at high levels. Specifically, for the 2013-2014 award year, the department strengthened the focus of both categories’ performance criteria around subgroups within a school and for all students.


A total of 420 schools nationwide may be nominated, with allocations determined by the numbers of K-12 students and schools in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and the Bureau of Indian Education. The Council for American Private Education (CAPE) nominates private schools. The Secretary of Education invites nominated schools to submit an application for possible recognition as a National Blue Ribbon School.

The Sussex County Post delivers news from Georgetown and southern Delaware. Follow @SussexPost on Twitter.

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