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Hancock school is national Blue Ribbon winner

May 19, 1998|By DAVE McMILLION and STEVEN T. DENNISs

HANCOCK - Hancock Middle/Senior High School was named a national Blue Ribbon School of Excellence Monday, the highest honor that can be bestowed on a public or private school, officials said.

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The Hancock school is one 166 schools from across the country that will be recognized this year for their excellence in teaching. Three other schools in Maryland received the award, officials said.

"I don't even know what kind of quote to make. I think it's a tremendous honor," said Principal Boyd J. Michael III.

The winning schools are expected to be recognized in a ceremony attended by President Clinton and U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, possibly in November, Michael said.

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Michael said he was informed of the decision by U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md.

Sarbanes said the award is "quite a testament to the successful efforts under way in providing a quality education to the young people of Hancock Middle/Senior High School."

Mayor Daniel A. Murphy said he was "tickled to death" at the news.

"I tell you, we're on a roll. This is just wonderful news," he said.

The award has boosted community pride, Murphy said.

"We've found out what's good about being small," he said.

Because Hancock is small and isolated, the school becomes a focal point of the community, Murphy said.

Murphy's wife, Debbie, heads the local PTA.

"I'm really pleased with the way this has brought a unity to the school," she said.

Officials announced in November that Hancock was one of 11 Maryland schools that won the Blue Ribbon honor at the state level. The 11 schools then were nominated to the U.S. Department of Education for the national competition.

All the schools were screened by the U.S. Department of Education, the Department of Defense Dependent Schools, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Council for American Private Education, Sarbanes said.

A panel of educators and other professionals then reviewed the nominations, selected schools for site visits and made recommendations to Riley.

It is the first time a Washington County school has won at the state and national levels.

"They had all the elements that were needed," said B. Marie Byers, vice president of the Washington County Board of Education.

Hancock's assessment test scores have dramatically improved in recent years, and the school's eighth-grade reading scores in the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program have tripled in the last three years. Social studies, math and science scores at the eighth-grade level have nearly doubled in the same period, Michael said.

Because the school is small, students are "more than just a name and a number," said Debbie Murphy.

She also attributed much of the school's success to the introduction of the four-period day, which challenged teachers to try out new ways of teaching.

The Murphys' son, Allen, 15, is president of the ninth-grade class.

"I think it means a lot to the kids because we're one of the smallest schools in the state and definitely in the county. It's a big honor," he said.

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