The Duncan Banner

September 26, 2013

Central High Elementary has Blue Ribbon spirit

Academic efforts rewarded

Toni Hopper
The Duncan Banner

CENTRAL HIGH — Superintendent Benny Newton and Central High Elementary Principal LeAnn Johnson have known for three weeks their school had earned a Blue Ribbon.

But it was top secret until Wednesday, when the U.S. Department of Education released its embargo on the news. At 8:30 a.m. Oklahoma time, they were able to share the news with the entire staff and student population. In fact, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan revealed the schools via streaming video.

CH Board of Education members were the only other ones in on the confidential news prior to the public school address. Newton credits Johnson and the teachers for the prestigious academic award which only went to 286 schools nationwide. Only six Oklahoma schools were designated as Blue Ribbon Schools.

“It’s 90 percent her (Johnson).  She’s the one that stays on top of the curriculum and stays on top of the groundwork,” Newton said Thursday. But Newton’s praise didn’t cease with Johnson.

“One of the mainstays in our school in being so successful, is the unwavering support that we receive from our community and school board,” he said.

Newton has plenty of reason to be proud of the achievement. Being named a Blue Ribbon School does not come easy.

The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has existed for 31 years, but only 7,500 schools have achieved the award. This year, 50 private schools also were designated Blue Ribbon Schools.

Newton joined Central High School District in 1998-99, first as principal. At the time, Johnson was in the classroom. When Newton was named superintendent, he made Johnson his administrative assistant until she could complete her certification. He then named her elementary principal and has never regretted that decision.

“In my opinion, she’s the best, very dedicated and very hardworking at what she does,” he said. “One of her biggest attributes is she wants to succeed.”

Johnson was not able to be on campus Wednesday when the announcement was made to the entire district.

“She wants the entire district to succeed and works diligently at getting it done,” he said.

In November, a school assembly will be held once the award is brought to the district. A special recognition ceremony takes place Nov. 18-19 in Washington D.C.

“If you were to map out our course of action in achieving academic excellence, you would start with the community and go all the way through to the students, it would be a straight highway, with no turns or curves in it,” Newton said. “From community to school board to teachers and administration and students.”

In 2005-06, the district had 370 students, but the following year saw a huge increase, with the enrollment jumping to 408 students. It appears to have steadily increased since then, with 430 students as of this month. At the elementary campus, numbers are over 240 this month, Newton said.

To be considered for Blue Ribbon status, the state superintendent must nominate a school and then paperwork is submitted to the Dept. of Education for review. It is based on overall academic excellence or progress in improving student academic achievement.

“National Blue Ribbon schools represent examples of educational excellence, and their work reflects the belief that every child in America deserves a world-class education,” said Duncan.