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September 14, 2012

Waurika Elementary designated ‘Blue Ribbon’

WAURIKA — When Waurika Public Schools became involved in the national Reading First program five years ago, it was believed the program would result in students at Waurika Elementary increasing their reading capabilities and using that skill to enrich their total education.

On Friday, Oklahoma State Superintendent Jane Barresi announced that Waurika Elementary was among six state learning sights designated as Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education. WES will be recognized as one of 219 public and 50 private schools nationwide to receive the prestigious award during a ceremony Nov. 12-13, in Washington, D.C.

“I am so proud of Principal Cody Simmons and the entire staff and faculty at the elementary school for all the hard work they have done,” District 23 Superintendent Roxie Terry said.

“Becoming a Blue Ribbon School wasn’t just a one-year deal, it was an accumulation of what they’ve done at the elementary school in the last five years. The Reading First program was when things really took off for us.

“Everyone at the school has been involved in this, from PE and art teachers, to teachers and students in all grade levels, including our counselors and teacher aides who read to the kids. It was a total team effort.”

In a press release, Barresi said, “I want to offer my congratulations to the students, educators and parents at each of these (Oklahoma) schools, who have put in so much work to achieve this designation.

“This is a sign that the students in these schools are truly being prepared for a future of college, career and citizenship. They are examples of excellence to the entire state.”

There are two categories of Blue Ribbon status, with the highest designation going to schools that are Extremely High Performing. WES was in that category, along with KIPP Reach College Preparatory School in Oklahoma City, Pratt Elementary School in Sand Springs and Santa Fe High School in Edmond.

In the Exemplary Improving category, Blue Ribbon recognition went to Hoover Elementary School in Enid and Hulbert Elementary School.

“I couldn’t be more proud of everyone at (Waurika Elementary), and give all the credit to the teachers and students and others who helped,” said Simmons, who was a WES teacher before becoming principal three years ago. “It’s an honor to even be nominated, and to actually receive the Blue Ribbon award is just wonderful. It’s cool. It’s really neat.

“From what we’ve been able to tell, Lawton has the only other school in this area and in the area around us to be a Blue Ribbon winner.”

Explaining the process that led to winning Blue Ribbon status, Simmons said nomination is the first criteria and then a panel looks at test schools from recent years to see if the school is among the top 15 percent nominated. The nomination is then passed along to another committee for consideration, and once it passes that panel a school becomes a finalist.

“Then they weigh in how the students have performed on end of instruction testing from the previous year,” he noted. “If those scores are good, that’s the final piece.

“Our students performed really well on the testing.”

During its 30-year history, the National Blue Schools Program has recognized nearly 7,000 schools, public and private. For more information on the Blue Ribbon program and to see a list of past winners, go to http://ok.gov/sde/no-child-left-behind-blue-ribbon-schools.

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