Eight local schools win state education awards from Denn
Lt. Gov. Matt Denn recently honored 17 Delaware schools as Reward and Recognition schools, for offering exceptional education.
“This is one of my favorite days on the job … to celebrate excellence and hard work,” said Denn at an Oct. 15 press conference. “Overall, these are schools that have just been doing amazing things.”
The Reward School designation is given to schools whose students are performing at an exceptionally high level, particularly schools with large percentages of students coming from low-income households.
The Recognition School designation is award to schools that have succeeded in closing the achievement gap for students, such as low-income students, students from minority groups and students with disabilities.
All of the winners were selected based on 2012-2013 data. Out of 330 public schools statewide, the 17 winners were chosen in a blind competition to receive $50,000 to spend as they choose.
“Experience shows that schools spend it very, very well,” said Denn, who will visit nearly every individual winner this year.
“I challenge you find a lieutenant governor who knows as much about the schools in his state,” said Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy. “It’s incredible to see so many students in the audience.”
Georgetown Middle School not only received Recognition School honors, it got an extra pat on the back by hosting the Sussex County event. It was the only traditional middle school to win an award.
Denn told the middle school students to “be tremendously proud of the work you have done because it is not easy. … They seem self-confident. In reality, they’ve had to overcome other things, and they have done it. We are incredibly incredible proud of students here.”
GMS Principal Mike Williams said the school had implemented a school-wide open-door policy, in which teachers can observe other classrooms and learn.
“Smart is something you get, not something you are,” Williams quoted from the school motto. The school administration believes goals are more important than innate talent, and teachers are encouraged to grow and learn, as well.
Meanwhile, Georgetown Elementary School was one of the top three schools statewide to close the achievement gap.
Denn addressed students in the audience, “You and your schools should be proud. … You took the test!”
The school’s secret to success is collaboration among teachers, who feel empowered by watching students grow and succeed, said GES Principal Neil Stong. Plus, the school celebrates student success every quarter.
“Our students are working, and our staff are working,” said Stong before a crowd of fifth-graders. “They are truly dedicated.”
Sussex Academy was one of two Reward Schools, which are Title I schools (those with a high percentage of low-income populations) identified for being either highest performing or high progress. The school had the highest percentage of students meeting English and math proficiency.
Sussex Academy Director Patricia Oliphant shared student and staff comments on what makes them successful.
“We’re pushed toward success all the time. We’re expected to succeed,” students wrote. They said teachers were friendly and available to help.
Teachers said they enjoyed having “collaborative relationships with students and each other, … and a culture that values responsibility.”
East Millsboro Elementary was another Recognition School — an honor that focused on positive relationships between students, families and teachers.
Since the program began in 2009, only three schools have won three times, including Long Neck Elementary School.
LNES Principal David Hudson said the school’s mission statement says it all: “We are a community that inspires passion for learning … [with] support staff, community and students that care and want to see success.”
In such a small state, Hudson said, students are lucky to see government representatives and school boards in their own hallways.
While LNES racked up its third honor, Indian River School District also had three Schools of Continued Excellence — schools that received one of the state awards during 2012 and continued to qualify for Reward or Recognition school distinction in 2013. Those schools are not eligible for prizes two years in a row but still garnered recognition. The IRSD Schools of Continued Excellence included John M. Clayton, Lord Baltimore and Phillip C. Showell elementary schools.
“You will be the greatest generation, regardless of your school,” Oliphant told students in the audience at the Oct. 15 event.