Six Louisiana schools, three in the New Orleans area and one in Baton Rouge, are getting special blue ribbons signifying academic excellence, the U.S. Department of Education announced Tuesday.
The lone private school on the list is Most Blessed Sacrament School, a Catholic elementary school in Baton Rouge.
Maria Cloessner was a teacher at the private elementary school when it opened in 1980 and has served as its principal for the past 27 years. She said she’s known about the blue ribbon for two weeks, but couldn’t say anything, so she was glad Tuesday morning when she could finally share the good news.
“We know we have a good school, and we’re very proud of what we have,” Cloessner said. “It’s nice to know other people know too.”
The five other Louisiana winners are public schools.
Three are in the New Orleans area: Ella Dolhonde Elementary School and Haynes Academy School for Advanced Studies, both in Metairie, and Lake Forest Elementary Charter School in New Orleans.
The other public school winners are Pearl Watson Elementary School in Lake Charles and Morehouse Magnet School in Bastrop.
All six Louisiana schools are being recognized with federal blue ribbons for the first time.
Haynes and Morehouse are magnet schools. Lake Forest is a charter school, only the second Louisiana charter school to earn the honor.
The first charter school winner was Ben Franklin High School in New Orleans, which was converted to a charter in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina.
The department’s Blue Ribbon School of Excellence honors go to schools that either are among the top performing in the country or have shown significant progress in improving student achievement.
The six Louisiana schools are among 286 schools nationwide the federal government is recognizing this year, 236 of them public and 50 private.
They will be recognized in ceremonies Nov. 18 and Nov. 19 in Washington, D.C.
In its 31-year history, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has honored about 7,500 of America’s schools.
The process to become a National Blue Ribbon school starts almost a year ahead of time.
Cloessner said the Catholic Schools Office alerted her in November that the Most Blessed Sacrament’s math and reading scores in grades three to eight were high enough to apply.
Then her staff started to complete a lengthy application.
“We had to highlight a certain area in our school,” Cloessner said. “We chose social studies because a lot of what we do is related to our state and our culture.”
By February, they finally had submitted everything.
Only her staff knew the good news Tuesday morning as students arrived for school; She’d told them late the day before.
“I felt they were the ones who helped to get us where we are, so said.
Rather than going to their first period class, the students went to a school assembly.
At 8 a.m., U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan appeared via live streaming to let the students and faculty know that they were indeed Blue Ribbon recipients.
In the audience and in the know as well was Melanie Verges, the superintendent for Catholic schools for the Diocese of Baton Rouge.
Parents are getting a letter and an automated phone call to let them know the good news.
And the school quickly added other evidence of its good fortune.
“We’ve already decorated the front gate with the big blue ribbon, and we’re putting blue dye in the water fountain,” she said. “It’s blue overkill.”