January 27, 2006

2006 Catholic Schools Week Supplement

U.S. Department of Education honors five schools

By Mary Ann Wyand

Five Catholic schools in central and southern Indiana earned national recognition for excellence in education last year.

During a U.S. Department of Education ceremony on Nov. 11 in Washington, D.C., representatives of the archdiocese’s newest No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence accepted the awards on behalf of the students, faculty, staff, parents and volunteers who helped make this recognition possible.

The newest archdiocesan schools to receive the national honor are St. Simon the Apostle School in Indianapolis, Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Indianapolis, St. Michael School in Greenfield, St. Thomas Aquinas School in Indianapolis and Holy Family School in New Albany.

During their visit to the nation’s capital, representatives of these schools also attended a special reception on Nov. 10 that was hosted by the National Catholic Educational Association.

“The Catholic schools of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis have been extraordinarily well-represented in the Blue Ribbon Schools program since its inception,” said G. Joseph Peters, associate executive director of Catholic education for the archdiocese.

Six archdiocesan schools were awarded Blue Ribbons during 2004 and four schools earned this national recognition during 2003, Peters said, for a total of 15 awards in the past three years.

Since the first Blue Ribbon award was presented in 1985, he said, 24 national Blue Ribbon awards have been earned by 19 Catholic schools in the archdiocese.

Peters said the Archdiocese of Indianapolis has earned more Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence awards from the U.S. Department of Education than any other diocese in the country.

Gerald Ernstberger, principal of Holy Family School in New Albany, said the school’s 362 students were excited to celebrate the distinction of receiving the national education award for the second time since 2001 during a Mass and open house on Nov. 20 at the New Albany Deanery parish.

“It’s nice to have earned the Blue Ribbon award under both programs—the original U.S. Department of Education award and then the No Child Left Behind Act award,” he said. “The criteria are different, and it’s nice to be able to get that recognition under both sets of criteria.”

Ernstberger said he and eighth-grade teacher Kathy Weber enjoyed hearing Margaret Spelling, secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, speak during a Nov. 11 luncheon in Washington, and they appreciated the workshops with administrators of other schools that earned Blue Ribbon awards.

“We were learning from administrators of schools that have done really great things,” he said, “so it was very helpful.”

Kristine Cohn, U.S. Department of Education regional representative from Chicago, visited the school on Dec. 16 to congratulate the students, faculty and staff.

But the best part about receiving the national education award, Ernstberger said, is sharing it with the students.

“They’re good kids,” he said. “It’s a great school. Obviously, standardized tests are now a very important part of the award. We have a lot of high expectations, and it was particularly satisfying, I think, for the teachers and myself given the fact that we got the award for the second time. That was really special.” †


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