September 29, 2006

Six schools named Blue Ribbon Schools
of Excellence

By John Shaughnessy

Continuing its record-setting achievement, the archdiocese had six schools named recently as Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education.

The six schools earning that honor this year are Christ the King School in Indianapolis, Father Michael Shawe Memorial Jr./Sr. High School in Madison, St. Bartholomew School in Columbus, St. Lawrence School in Indianapolis, St. Lawrence School in Lawrenceburg and St. Monica School in Indianapolis.

In the past four years, 21 different schools in the archdiocese have earned the Blue Ribbon distinction. No other diocese in the United States has matched that distinction.

The six schools are among the 250 schools honored nationally by the No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon Schools program. The archdiocesan schools accounted for almost half of the total 14 schools recognized in Indiana. One other Catholic school in Indiana—St. Jude School in Fort Wayne—was also honored.

“We are thrilled and proud of these accomplishments,” said Annette “Mickey” Lentz, executive director of Catholic education for the archdiocese. “It is a great tribute to our education system. The archdiocese is nationally recognized by these phenomenal numbers. When I travel to D. C., it becomes a hot topic. ‘What do you do?’ they ask.”

She said she tells them, “We encourage, support, affirm and offer resources.”

Lentz also noted that the archdiocese’s past success helps to fuel its current success.

“I feel schools are focusing on their success and performance, becoming high performing schools,” she said. “We at the Office of Catholic Education emphasize its importance to the school community and its marketing efforts. We also connect them with previous recipients for assistance.”

Catholic schools are nominated for the award by the Council for American Private Education. Blue Ribbon schools are then chosen based upon the following three criteria, according to G. Joseph Peters, the archdiocese’s associate executive director for Catholic education:

  • Schools with at least 40 percent of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds that dramatically improve student performance on state tests.
  • Schools whose students, regardless of background, achieve in the top 10 percent of their state on test scores.
  • Private schools that achieve in the top 10 percent in the nation.

The honor is a tribute to the commitment to Catholic education that parents, teachers, staff and students make, according to Jerry Bomholt, the principal of Shawe Memorial High School in Madison.

“Probably the most important factor is the commitment to education that our parents have made,” Bomholt said. “Our kids have heard it over and over again from their parents and our staff that education is important. And they’re great kids, too.”

The Shawe community marked its recognition with a faith-based celebration on Sept. 26. For the celebration, Bomholt invited all former Shawe teachers, staff and students, and the school community of Pope John XXIII School, the only Catholic elementary school in Madison.

“As our elementary school, they’ve obviously had a tremendous influence on what has happened here,” Bomholt said. “This is an award we all need to share.”

The high school has been decorated in blue ribbons, and the cafeteria staff made blue Rice Krispies treats for students.

Blue ribbons and balloons were also part of the celebration at Christ the King School in Indianapolis, where students and staff planned to dress in blue on Sept. 28.

“I’m proud for our school community and the entire parish,” said Scott Stewart, the principal of Christ the King School. “This is my third year here, and it’s been obvious to me that the school has been overdue for this honor for a long time. This school has really done well over the years.”

So has St. Lawrence School in Indianapolis, which was recognized as a Blue Ribbon School for the second time.

“There are a lot of people excited here,” said Betty Popp, the school’s principal. “We’re in the top 250 schools in the nation.”

St. Lawrence began its celebration on Sept. 25 as teachers, staff and the school’s 360 students flowed into the parish church for a prayer service of thanksgiving.

St. Monica School in Indianapolis proclaimed its Blue Ribbon recognition on the school’s marquee.

“It’s a fantastic place—the school and the parish,” said Debbie Reale, the assistant principal at St. Monica. “Everyone pulls together and works hard. We have a lot of parental involvement, which you need if a school is to be a success. And we love our kids.”

That successful combination of parents who offer support and students who set goals was also cited by Kathy Schubel, the principal of St. Bartholomew School in Columbus. Schubel also noted another essential quality for becoming a school of excellence.

“I read a while ago that a staff that collaborates is a greater indicator of student success than socio-economic issues,” she said. “We have a staff that collaborates. The teachers work hard every day to make a difference in the lives of the children.”

The Blue Ribbon recognition is a dream-come-true at St. Lawrence School in Lawrenceburg.

“This has been a vision of mine as long as I’ve been principal,” said Dena Steiner, the principal at St. Lawrence School in Lawrenceburg. “This is my sixth year. Our thought was we were working for this every year. So every year, we’ve become a better school.

“To me, it shows the strength of Catholic education. It shows that what we’re doing, we’re doing right, especially in the archdiocese. Our students get strong academics and a values education.” †


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