Four Archdiocese of Louisville schools have been named U.S. Department of Education 2015 National Blue Ribbon Schools. This is the second year in a row that four schools in the archdiocese have won this distinction.
The awards will be presented to 335 schools around the nation — including 50 non-public schools — at an awards ceremony in November in Washington, D.C.
The four local Catholic schools are:
- St. Albert the Great at 1395 Girard Drive.
- St. Gabriel the Archangel at 5503 Bardstown Road.
- St. Margaret Mary at 7813 Shelbyville Road.
- St. Mary Academy in Prospect, Ky.
Two schools, St. Margaret Mary and St. Albert the Great, also earned the distinction in 2004. In the last two decades or so, 18 schools from the Archdiocese of Louisville have been named Blue Ribbon Schools.
“Overall, 39 percent of our schools have received recognition throughout the history of the program,” said Leisa Schulz, superintendant of schools for the Archdiocese of Louisville. “St. Xavier High School was the first (local) school to be recognized, back in 1984.”
Schulz noted that this year’s honorees scored in the top 15 percent on standardized tests in the country. And the average of all the archdiocese schools’ scores put the school system in the top 15 percent, as well, she said.
The Blue Ribbon distinction also takes into account other factors, including opportunities provided at the school — both the curriculum and extracurricular activities — and the school’s role in the community, including its dedication to service, Schulz said.
In that sense, the distinction “speaks to the excellent Catholic education the students are receiving,” she said. “While test scores are the first step — and that’s very important — we’re also looking at the whole school environment, which speaks to parents, students, teachers and parishioners.”
This is the first Blue Ribbon distinction for two of the schools — St. Mary Academy and St. Gabriel.
Mary Alice Zettel, principal of St. Mary Academy, said the national award is exciting and the school plans to “celebrate for quite a while.”
St. Mary, a regional school, opened in 2007 as a result of the merger of Mother of Good Counsel and Immaculate Conception schools.
“I think it’s very important for us because we are such a young school,” said Zettel. “One of the things our founding fathers and mothers wanted when they first thought of the idea of St. Mary Academy was a Blue Ribbon award. This is wonderful for the families and the people who have worked so hard over the last eight years.”
Zettel commended her faculty and staff and, most especially, St. Mary students.
The school earned the honor “because of their scores and how hard they work in the classroom each and every day,”
Pam Huelsman, principal of St. Gabriel School, said she could barely put into words the excitement she felt at receiving the coveted distinction.
“The emotions are so — you don’t realize how deep they are. We put (the announcement) on a large 10-foot screen for the kids to see and all of a sudden it kind of grabs you,” she said. “I was sitting there with tears in my eyes. It’s such a dream come true. We’ve been waiting on this for a long, long time.”
Huelsman lauded St. Gabriel teachers and assistants and said they were instrumental in achieving the award.
“I told the students, ‘Only together did we accomplish this and together we will continue to grow.’ ” Huelsman said.
St. Margaret Mary students, teachers and staff took part in an impromptu party, line dancing to the song “Celebration,” after principal Wendy Sims told them about the Blue Ribbon award.
“We’re excited and proud to celebrate the excellence of our school and we are happy to be doing it a second time,” said Sims.
Sims noted that she has been principal at St. Margaret Mary for five years and winning the Blue Ribbon designation is one of the goals she’d set for the school.
“This is a proud moment for the school and for families,” she said.
The school is planning a week-long celebration starting Oct. 19. Sims will travel to Washington, D.C., along with sixth-grade teacher Natalie Androla, to attend the national award ceremony Nov. 9 to 10. Androla is one of the teachers who helped with the award application.
Bernadette Cooper, principal of St. Albert the Great School, noted that the African proverb, ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ describes the effort required to earn a Blue Ribbon distinction.
“It takes a whole lot of help to have a Blue Ribbon school,” said Cooper.
She offered a list of things she believes are necessary to earn the honor:
- Teachers who are glad to accommodate each student, keeping in mind that each progresses at his or her own pace.
- “Wonderful children” who want to learn and put forth the effort.
- The support of the parents and the parish community.
Cooper plans to travel to Washington, D.C., for the award ceremony. She said the school is planning a celebration for Nov. 12, centered around St. Albert’s feast day.