By Marnie McAllister and Jessica Able, Record Staff
The awards were announced Sept. 28 in Washington, D.C., by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. They will be presented by the U.S. Department of Education in a ceremony on Nov. 7 in Washington.
The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes public and private high, middle and elementary schools. Holy Trinity and St. Joseph were honored as Exemplary High Performing Schools, which have their state’s highest achieving students — the top 15 percent — in English and mathematics as measured by the state, according to a news release from the Archdiocese of Louisville.
This is the second time Holy Trinity has been recognized as a Blue Ribbon School. Holy Trinity was previously honored in 2007. This is the first Blue Ribbon distinction for St. Joseph.
Margaret Bowen, principal of St. Joseph, said the school community is proud of this accomplishment.
“It takes a dedicated staff, the support of the parents and really good students all around” to earn a Blue Ribbon, she said during a phone interview.
Though St. Joseph is situated in a small rural town, she said, its students “are getting a great education here.” In fact, she credits the tight-knit community surrounding St. Joseph with part of the school’s success.
“In Bardstown, everyone supports the school — the community, the parish,” she said. “What is unique here is the extent of the whole-community commitment. I know as many grandparents here as I know parents.”
She also noted that Bardstown and Nelson County are full of hardworking people and that work ethic is reflected in the effort of the students.
Similarly, parents and educators give themselves fully to support St. Joseph, she said.
“Parents support us and they get what we’re striving to do,” she said, noting, they take the initiative to ask, “What can we do?”
St. Joseph’s teachers, she added, “are a true professional learning community.”
“This staff collaborates extremely well,” Bowen said. “They take the extra step to do more professional development than is required of them. They are award winners and grant writers. They are learners themselves and they come back and share with each other and with the kids.”
Jack Richards, principal of Holy Trinity, said the announcement of the Blue Ribbon award is one “of those proud moments as a principal.”
“I know the hard work that goes in each and every school day, whether it be in the classroom or through activities or organizations. A lot of parents, teachers and students work extremely hard,” Richards said in a phone interview Sept. 28.
Richards, who has been principal of Holy Trinity for 12 years, said to receive the award a second time makes him “very proud.”
“To see the growth from the 2007 award to this 2017 award is a really neat opportunity for me to reflect back on the years between those two awards,” he said.
One of the questions that the Blue Ribbon Schools Program asks, Richards said, is “If you have previously won this award, what has changed since then?”
Richards said the application committee highlighted two areas of focus: the school’s STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) program and also the school’s aim to focus on developing the whole person — incorporating charitable outreach into the curriculum, as well as more music and performing arts initiatives.
Richards said the credit lies within the entire school and parish community.
“The partnership of parents, grandparents, extended families with the teachers and administrators have really come together to form a foundation for student growth,” he said.
He noted, in particular, Father Mark Spalding, who has been pastor of Holy Trinity for six years, and Archbishop of Indianapolis Charles C. Thompson, who served as pastor before that.
“I thank them for making the school a huge priority for Holy Trinity, just their presence day in and day out in the classroom or at sporting events showcases to parents the importance of the school and how much value this parish has for the success of this school,” he said.
The school will hold a “Blue Celebration Day” on Oct. 24 where students, teachers, staff and parents will celebrate the honor.
Holy Trinity and St. Joseph are among nine public and non-public schools in the state of Kentucky to receive the Blue Ribbon distinction. In addition to Holy Trinity, one other school in Jefferson County was recognized — Norton Elementary School. St. Joseph is the only school in Nelson County to be honored. Three hundred forty-two schools were honored nationwide; 50 of those were non-public schools.
Representatives from the schools will formally receive the awards in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 7. Local celebrations also are being planned.
In addition to Holy Trinity and St. Joseph, five secondary schools and 13 elementary schools have previously received this award one or more times.
The five secondary schools are Assumption High School, Mercy Academy, Sacred Heart Academy, Trinity High School and St. Xavier High School.
The 13 other elementary schools are St. Agnes, St. Albert, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Gabriel, Holy Spirit, Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Margaret Mary, St. Mary Academy, St. Patrick, St. Raphael and Sacred Heart Model, all in Louisville, and St. Aloysius in Pewee Valley, Ky., and St. James in Elizabethtown, Ky.