School wins Blue Ribbon

November 27, 2001

School wins Blue Ribbon


Northern Middle School's selection as one of Maryland's top schools came as no surprise to Principal Valerie Novak.


The 668-student school has been named one of nine 2002 Maryland Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence by the state Department of Education. The school is the fifth to receive Blue Ribbon status in as many years in Washington County.

Salem Avenue Elementary School, Hancock Middle-Senior High School, Clear Spring High School and Smithsburg Elementary School earned the honor in previous years.

Hancock and Salem Avenue have also received the National Blue Ribbon award. Springfield Middle School received honorable mention in the 2002 Blue Ribbon program.


Northern Middle automatically becomes eligible for the national honor as a result of winning at the state level.

"We really felt we were a Blue Ribbon school all along because we have so many good things going on here," Novak said.

Blue Ribbon selection demonstrates high achievement in student performance, instruction, parent and community involvement and professional development, according to a statement from the state Department of Education.

Last year, Northern Middle's eighth-graders had the highest math scores on the MSPAP tests in the county and soared above the state average. Seventy-nine percent of Northern Middle's students scored satisfactorily on the math tests, compared to 50 percent across the state.

In addition, Novak said school staff, students and parents work as a team to promote achievement and community service, pointing to a large cloth American flag draped over several lockers as an example.

The double-sided flag, made up of 740 squares designed by all of the school's students and staff, will be sent to either the White House or the Pentagon to show support for the country in light of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"This is the kind of thing that goes on here all the time," Novak said.

The school began its bid for Blue Ribbon status last spring by writing a 46-page application. Teams were formed to write and edit the application before sending it to the state by Sept. 15.

"They scrutinized every sentence, every punctuation, every detail to get this done," Novak said.

The Blue Ribbon designation is considered by educators to be among the most prestigious awards schools can earn.

"We always look at it as one of the highest honors you can receive," said Director of Secondary Education Boyd Michael III. "It kind of gives you a real good feeling of pride to get that confirmation from somebody else."

Eighth-grader Brittany Churchey and seventh-grader Christopher Devore, who spend a lot of time on school community service projects, were happy they had a hand in winning the designation.

"I was happy to be part of this school that won the award," said Brittany, 13.

"I felt like I helped the school with its service," said Christopher, 12.

Teacher Beckie Higgins said she still hasn't grasped the idea of winning the honor.

"I think I was more in disbelief," she said.

Northern Middle School will be honored by the Maryland Board of Education on Dec. 5, by the Maryland House of Delegates in Annapolis in March and by the state board of Department of Education at the Blue Ribbon Gala on April 23 at Martin's West in Baltimore.

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