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School awarded blue ribbon

November 15, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

Clear Spring High School has been named a state Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, the third Washington County school in three years to earn Maryland's highest school honor.

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The Maryland State Department of Education picked 10 schools to recognize as outstanding models of teaching and learning. Each state Blue Ribbon Schools can compete for a national Blue Ribbon Award.

"I am proud to be a principal of a school that has an excellent staff and student body," said Principal John Peckyno.

He said the school was able to excell because of the support of the community and Washington County Board of Education.

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"The parents are excited. The kids are very pleased," according to Assistant Principal Regina Sharp of the honor.

"I had one student ask me, 'do we get blue ribbons to wear?' They are proud and they need to be proud. This was a community effort."

Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett Jr. said Washington County's schools are very competitive in the academic arena. Compared to other state schools, they tend to be outstanding, Bartlett said.

"I'm excited beyond words," he said.

The state selects schools based on criteria such as leadership, teaching environment, curriculum and instruction, community support, test scores and other indicators of success.

Darla Strouse, Blue Ribbon program coordinator for the state education department, said the Clear Spring school has an excellent family involvement program. Its leadership team is moving the school forward into the 21st century, she said.

Last year, Clear Spring High School showed the most improvement and had the county's highest average in the SAT, formerly known as Scholastic Assessment Test. Its score rose 89 points, from 974 to 1063. It also had the county's highest mean math score at 521.

In the functional tests, the school achieved excellent status in all areas for grades nine and 11. Of the students who took AP exams, 65 percent scored high enough to get college credit for their courses.

Clear Spring had a 1.1 percent dropout rate last year, the lowest in the county, Sharp said. The school's attendance rate of 95.5 percent was the third highest in the county.

"For the past five years, we have done nothing but improve," said Sharp.

To become a Blue Ribbon school, Clear Spring submitted a 40-page application with detailed data for five years.

This was the first year the school has applied, Sharp said.

Clear Spring plans to submit its revised application to the U.S. Department of Education for a national Blue Ribbon before the Nov. 24 deadline. Final notification is in May, following a three-day site visit in January.

Hancock Middle/Senior High School became a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence in November 1997 and got its national award in May 1998. Salem Avenue Elementary School followed with state and national recognition in November 1998 and May 1999.

"Three for three," said Secondary Education Director Boyd Michael III. "It's great. It's like phenomenal."

Strouse said the Blue Ribbon award is more remarkable for a rural school in a county with a small population. Three awards in a row is also significant.

"It means the county sees itself prominently. You have to have a lot of self-esteem to apply," she said.

The Maryland State Department of Education honors the state's Blue Ribbon Schools with a reception and dinner on April 27. Each school gets $1,000 and a tribute from the legislature in January. Special citations and flags are also awarded to each school.

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