Three local schools receive Blue Ribbon awards

Published Sep 26, 2013 at 4:51 pm (Updated Sep 26, 2013 at 4:51 pm)

Three local school districts, Upper St. Clair, Mt. Lebanon and Peters Township, were notified that one building in each district was named a 2013 National Blue Ribbon school.

For Upper St. Clair, the most recent Blue Ribbon distinction is the 11th time the school district has been honored.

In Peters Township, the middle school was named for the award for the first time. In Mt. Lebanon, Lincoln Elementary School was designated for the third time. And in Upper St. Clair, Fort Couch Middle School was named a recipient for the fourth time. Only seven other schools in the country have received the award four times.

The designation is based on overall academic excellence or for success in closing achievement gaps. It has been awarded since 1982. The designation was issued through the U.S. Department of Education. Schools were nominated through the state Department of Education.

The department will honor the 238 public and 50 private schools selected as Blue Ribbon schools at a conference and awards ceremony Nov. 18-19 in Washington, D.C. Each school will receive a flag and a plaque.

The Fort Couch Middle School received the award in 1986-87, 1992-93 and 2001-2002.

“I wish to commend the Fort Couch leadership team, teachers, support staff, parents and students for this significant achievement,” said USC Superintendent Patrick O’Toole. “Their hard work and talent made this prestigious honor happen.”

The Upper St. Clair High School has received a Blue Ribbon Award three times while Baker, Eisenhower and Streams Elementary schools as well as Boyce Middle School have each received one Blue Ribbon Award.

O’Toole said the history of four Blue Ribbon awards at Fort Couch Middle School can be attributed to a former administrator, the late Donald Eichhorn. O’Toole said that Eichhorn revolutionized middle level education in Upper St. Clair and nationally, in the 1990s.

Lincoln Elementary’s third honor brings to seven the number of awards for the Mt. Lebanon district.

“I am very proud of Lincoln Elementary School for being selected a National Blue Ribbon School. The principal, faculty, students and parents have made a commitment to excellence in education that is a Lincoln tradition,” said Timothy Steinhauer, superintendent. “This award is symbolic of the good work we do every day throughout the district and embodies our guiding philosophy of continuous improvement.”

According to Lincoln Principal Marybeth Irvin, the Blue Ribbon represents a team effort. “Lincoln’s strength is the people, our faculty, staff, parents and community who work together to provide the best education possible for all of our students,” she said. “While we have a strong focus on academics, we also work together to support children in all areas of learning and growth.”

Lincoln received the award in 2000-01 and 2002-03. Washington Elementary School was awarded a Blue Ribbon in 2003-04, and Mt. Lebanon High School received the disticntion in 1983-04, 1990-91 and 1997-98.

The Peters Township Middle School marks the second time such a distinction was placed upon the district.

“We are so pleased to have the outstanding achievements of our students recognized on a national level,” said Robert Freado, middle School principal. “We share this honor with not only our students and current staff, but with the entire district, community and the staff members who have contributed over the years to our tradition of excellence.”

Science teacher Cindy Ollendyke said the students and teachers learned of the award when Freado made an announcement Sept. 24 during home room.

The students were not as excited as Ollendyke. She did a “happy dance” with her hands above her head.

“The kids were like ‘what’s that’ when they heard,” she said.

Freado knew the school was in the running after being notified last winter. The middle school was nominated by the state Department of Education. After a telephone call to Washington, D.C. last week, Freado said he “kind of” knew there was a good chance the school would receive the award.

Extensive applications were submitted by the schools in February. There were no face-to-face meetings and no contact once the applications were filed.

“We’re excited. We’re humble and very proud,” Ollendyke said.

A celebration will be held in Peters Township, but no date has been set.

The Peters middle school is the second building in the district to receive the honor as Pleasant Valley Elementary, a building housing kindergarten through third grade, received the distinction in 2011.

A total of 15 schools in Pennsylvania were named Blue Ribbon schools, meaning one fifth of those are contiguous along the Route 19 corridor.

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