Daniel Moss, Christian Netschytailo, Lillian Mundy, Keith Martinez, Isaac Kellar and Grace Lauer proudly present the 2012 National Blue Ribbon School flag to the crowd gathered for Saluda Elementary’s blue ribbon celebration on Friday, Nov. 16. (photo submitted)

Saluda celebrates Blue Ribbon

Published 5:42pm Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Smiles swept the faces of students at Saluda Elementary School as they stood on stage Friday, Nov. 16 to proudly display the National Blue Ribbon School banner received by Principal Ronette Dill in Washington, D.C. earlier this month.

In September, Saluda Elementary was named one of only 219 public schools to receive the National Blue Ribbon recognition this year.

“Each of you played an important role in this accomplishment,” Dill said to the crowd of parents, students and teachers present. “As principal of this school, I sincerely thank each of you for your dedication and tireless efforts to help our students learn and grow every day.”

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the National Blue Ribbon program, which honors public and private elementary, middle and high schools where students perform at very high levels or where significant improvements are being made in students’ levels of achievement.

Dill and art teacher Susan McRostie traveled to Washington, D.C. Nov. 12-13 to receive the banner and plaque for the school.

National blue ribbons are awarded in two categories: The first category is “Exemplary High Performing,” in which schools are recognized among their state’s highest performing schools, as measured by state assessments or nationally-normed tests. The second category is “Exemplary Improving,” in which schools that have at least 40 percent of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds demonstrate the most progress in improving student achievement levels.

Saluda Elementary placed in the first of those categories.

Nominations can be made for 417 schools, Dill said, with allocations determined by the numbers of K-12 students and schools in each jurisdiction. The secretary of education invites nominated schools to submit an application for possible recognition as a National Blue Ribbon School.

Dill said they usually do so based on the end of year test scores, the biggest factor in gaining a blue ribbon award in the exemplary high performing category.

“To be named a National Blue Ribbon School is to join an elite group. Only 7,110 schools have earned this status since the program’s inception in 1982,” Dill said.

The application for the award takes a look at everything from the school’s history to how it teaches reading and how its teachers and staff engage the community.

Saluda Elementary’s history traces back to 1922 when the Saluda Seminary closed as a private institution and became a public school.

Teachers at Saluda Elementary carry an average of 15 years experience, with 43 percent holding advanced degrees and 36 percent having achieved their National Board Certifications, the application read.

Just last year the PreK-5 school became one of only 42 schools in the North Carolina A+ Schools Program, which measures how schools work to fully integrate common core standards throughout a student’s day.

With that in mind, Saluda Elementary can boast that at least 90 percent of all its students perform at or above grade level and that the school meets adequate yearly progress targets each year.

The school also benefits from a hyper-involved community.

In the school’s application, Dill wrote, “The fact that our school is a community-based school enables us to easily encourage high parent participation, community involvement and partnerships with various clubs and institutions in our area.”

This includes programs like the “Books are really fun” program, which allows every student to select five free books a year. The Modern Woodmen of the World also assisted with grant funds to equip a science lab at the school.

The application goes on to read, “Saluda Elementary School’s consistent focus on arts-integration, collaborative planning and community involvement; coupled with our strong desire to provide meaningful, educational experiences for students has created a positive and successful learning environment for all stakeholders.”

The Saluda community ended last Friday’s blue ribbon celebration with a fall festival in the school’s gymnasium where families and school staff let loose through a carnival-like atmosphere.

Smiles swept the faces of students at Saluda Elementary School as they stood on stage Friday, Nov. 16 to proudly display the National Blue Ribbon School banner received by Principal Ronette Dill in Washington, D.C. earlier this month.

In September, Saluda Elementary was named one of only 219 public schools to receive the National Blue Ribbon recognition this year.

“Each of you played an important role in this accomplishment,” Dill said to the crowd of parents, students and teachers present. “As principal of this school, I sincerely thank each of you for your dedication and tireless efforts to help our students learn and grow every day.”

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