Charles Pinckney Elementary School Principal Leanne Sheppard doesn’t like to interrupt instructional time with announcements, but she made an exception on Thursday to deliver some good news.
The high-achieving school was among five in the state to be named a 2010 National Blue Ribbon School, an award from the U.S. Department of Education recognizing academic achievement or significant improvement in student performance.
The same announcement was made on Thursday at Howe Hall Arts Infused Magnet School in Berkeley County, which also was among the five state winners. Others included: Powdersville Elementary in Anderson 1; Greenville Technical Charter High in Greenville County; and Ballentine Elementary in Richland 5.
“This award signifies their success in making it possible for each and every student to succeed, and it shows that they have outstanding administrators, creative teachers and dedicated staff members,” state Superintendent of Education Jim Rex said in a statement.
Across the country, 304 schools – 254 public and 50 private – will be honored at an awards ceremony in November when they receive flags and engraved plaques. South Carolina could nominate five schools for the award if they met one of two criteria: at least 40 percent of their students are from disadvantaged backgrounds and show dramatic improvement in test scores or the school achieves in the top 10 percent of schools in the state. All nominated schools also had to meet federal Adequate Yearly Progress for the past three years.
Roughly 45 percent of Howe Hall students are considered high poverty, and both Howe Hall and Pinckney are ranked in the top 10 percent of schools statewide.
Pinckney Elementary is a third- through fifth-grade school with about 975 students, and it has received “excellent” ratings from the state since the inception of the state report card.
Sheppard and a couple of teachers attributed the school’s success to the way parents, teachers, students and the community work together to ensure students are learning. Media specialist Jennifer Thrift said parents are involved and support what’s happening in classrooms, and teachers collaborate and work as a team for the benefit of students.
Third-grade teacher Bridgette Marques agreed, saying those factors combine to give the school a palpable energy. She couldn’t recall a day that she didn’t want to go to work; it’s the place she wants to be, she said.
“(The award) really is confirmation of some of the things I’ve known for a while,” she said.
Howe Hall in Goose Creek serves about 420 students in kindergarten through fifth grade, and it has won a Palmetto Gold Award for the past five years as well as a Kennedy Center Creative Ticket School of Excellence Award in 2007. School Principal Marty French said the recognition affirms that the time spent preparing, planning and improving instruction pays off for students.
“I feel very proud to be in education and to know the effort of working with other compassionate educators truly makes a difference for children,” she said.
Like educators at Pinckney Elementary, she said the teamwork of parents and teachers is critical to the school’s success. Parents trust the school to make good decisions, and they support learning at home, and teachers are trusted as experts and given the freedom to think critically and make the curriculum fit students, she said.