Record Staff Writer
Two Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Louisville have been named 2019 National Blue Ribbon Schools — Ascension School, 4600 Lynnbrook Drive, and St. Dominic School in Springfield, Ky.
The awards were announced Sept. 26 by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. The awards will be presented by the U.S. Department of Education at a ceremony Nov. 15 in Washington, D.C.
The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program, in its 37th year, recognizes public and private elementary, middle and high schools where students either achieve very high learning standards or are making notable improvements in closing the achievement gap,” said a news release from the Department of Education.
The award affirms the “hard work of students, educators, families and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging content,” the release added.
Ascension and St. Dominic received recognition as Exemplary High Performing Schools, which have the highest achieving students. Students must be in the top 15 percent in English and mathematics as measured by a national assessment, the release said.
This is the first Blue Ribbon distinction for both schools.
Terrence Mullaney, principal of Ascension School, said it took the whole Ascension community working together to achieve the distinction. “It takes commitment from the faculty and students. The students are chief in this. Beyond that it takes the entire community at Ascension rallying behind us,” said Mullaney.
Ascension is committed to excellence, and this recognition confirms it, he said.
“It validates our efforts and everything we’ve been working so hard for over the past five years,” said Mullaney.
Ascension serves 233 students, almost double the number of students it had five years ago, Mullaney said. He attributes the growth to the school’s commitment to academic excellence and its “serious focus” on critical thinking and problem solving.
The Blue Ribbon award “fans the flames and gives us the oxygen to keep going,” Mullaney added.
Pam Breunig, principal of St. Dominic, said the honor was a “great achievement” for St. Dominic especially given the size of the Washington County school. There are 211 students in prekindergarten to eighth-grade enrolled at St. Dominic.
“We have to work really hard together to achieve things. We may not have all the things other programs do, but our small school setting makes all the difference,” Breunig said in a phone interview shortly after the announcement was made.
She added: “We are a small school with a big heart.”
The school’s size, Breunig said, is precisely what allows the teachers and students to work toward excellence.
“Excellence is more than just being good. It’s an attitude that you want to go the extra mile everyday,” she said.
Breunig, who is in her 18th year as principal of St. Dominic, said it’s also a source of pride to join the ranks of other archdiocesan schools who have been recognized as National Blue Ribbon Schools.
“I told the students that excellence isn’t just a one-year thing. To quote a principal at another school who received a Blue Ribbon: ‘This is just a starting point. We will never stop working toward our goal. We just entered on a journey together,’ ” she said.
Representatives from the schools will travel to Washington, D.C., in November to receive the award. Ascension held its community-wide celebration Sept. 28. St. Dominic is also planning a celebration.
The two schools are among five public and four non-public schools recognized in the state of Kentucky. Ascension is one of only two schools recognized in Jefferson County, and St. Dominic is the only school recognized in Washington County. In total, the Department of Education honored 312 public and 50 non-public schools nationwide.
The Council for American Private Education administers the National Blue Ribbon Schools program for private schools on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education.
Five Catholic high schools and 15 other elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Louisville have previously received this distinction. They are Assumption High School, Mercy Academy, Sacred Heart Academy, St. Xavier High School and Trinity High School.
And, St. Agnes, St. Albert the Great, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Gabriel, Holy Spirit, Holy Trinity, Our Lady of Lourdes, Sacred Heart Model School, St. Margaret Mary, St. Mary Academy, St. Patrick and St. Raphael in Louisville and St. Aloysius in Pewee Valley, Ky., St. James in Elizabethtown, Ky., and St. Joseph in Bardstown, Ky.