Students at St. James School in Savannah celebrate Oct 1. by waving pom poms and dancing amid falling confetti after learning that their school has been recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School for 2018. Photograph by Michael J. Johnson.
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Savannah school given National Blue Ribbon status

Originally Appeared in : 9821-10/11/18

The U.S. Department of Education has recognized St. James School in Savannah as one of its 2018 National Blue Ribbon Schools, an honor last granted to a diocean school, St. Francis Xavier School in Brunswick, in 2009. 

 

Nominated on the basis of its high academic excellence, St. James School attained English and mathematics standardized test scores in the top 15 percent last year.

 

“Some of the things we’ve done over the last couple of years is reviewed where we were academically,” said Sister Lisa Golden, IHM, principal of St. James School, prior to the school’s Blue Ribbon celebration Oct. 1. Sister Golden explained that the pre-K through eighth grade institution also applied for the recognition in 2017 but did not receive it. “And so we’ve put into place different maintenance programs — simple solutions— which have helped our math program and had consistency throughout, so we build on one another. We’ve also added different activities and things to our reading each year and so through that we’ve had great results in our TerraNova (standardized test) scores.” 

 

The official announcement of the 349 winning schools, presented via a prerecorded YouTube video, featured U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

 

DeVos told the faculty, staff, students and their parents gathered Oct. 1 in St. James’ school gymnasium, which had been adorned with a blue and white balloon arch and flying confetti, that “we recognize and honor your important work in preparing students for successful careers and meaningful lives…congratulations to your students’ accomplishments and for your extraordinary commitment to meeting their unique needs.” 

 

Of the 349 schools in the United States, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Department of Defense Education Activity and the Bureau of Indian Education who received the award this year, only 49, like St. James School, are “non-public.”

 

Other schools received the award based on their progress made in closing achievement gaps in English and mathematics over the past five years or by having their state’s highest high school graduation rates. 

 

Sister Golden described those schools who received the award as “elite company.” 

 

“We can’t take the TerraNova tests because you have persevered through some struggles, learned more each year. Our teachers build on what you’ve learned the year before. Because of you, this award is a result of your putting forth the best that you can be,” Sister Golden told the students. “I’ve always challenged you to work hard, to play hard and to pray hard. You have persevered through hard times, are excited about new adventures in education. You play fairly. You work things out when we have conflicts sometimes on the playground. You support one another and are getting better at being welcoming to new students and then to keep Christ as the center of all you do. That's wonderful.” 

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