State superintendent helps Hagerstown school celebrate 'Blue Ribbon' status


HALFWAY -- When asked Monday to name a school that has worked hard, Hickory Elementary School students knew the answer.

It was their school.

Hickory Elementary is one of six Maryland schools to receive a Blue Ribbon award through a state and national program that recognizes schools that perform at high levels or significantly improve reading and math scores.

The announcement was made in December.

"I am so proud of you all here at Hickory," Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said.

Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick was at the school Monday celebrating the award with state and local officials during an assembly for students.

Principal Catherine Scuffins said she was honored by the award and that her students are "beating the odds."

Fifty-eight percent of the school's 300 students live in poverty, but the students have high standardized test scores and are active in many charities, Grasmick said.


Students participated in community service projects to raise money for world hunger and tsunami relief, and they have sent about 1,500 letters and cards to those serving in Iraq.

"We did better on (Maryland School Assessments) than what was expected," Scuffins said. "We have high achievement in reading and math. The teachers have very high expectations for the kids that all will succeed."

Fifth-grade reading and math scores were in the top 30 percent of schools statewide, according to Scuffins. She said the school is not only beating the odds, but also improving each year.

In 2007, 87.2 percent of Hickory's fifth-graders were proficient or advanced in reading - an increase of 20.5 percentage points over the year before, according to state data.

In 2007, 93.6 percent of all Hickory students were proficient or advanced in reading. That is nearly 30 percentage points higher than in 2006, according to state data.

"It's a credit to the people involved, the teachers," Board Member Wayne D. Ridenour said. "They all work so hard."

Grasmick said the school could be named a national Blue Ribbon school. Those schools will be announced in September.

Board Vice President Donna Brightman also attended.

State Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said he takes students from several schools, including Hickory Elementary, to Annapolis for a field trip each year. The school's fourth-graders are scheduled to take that trip Friday.

"I'm always very impressed by how much the kids know about state government, and civics in general," Munson said. "Students are well-taught at this school."

Zack Story, 9, is going on the field trip to Annapolis and said he wants to be a United States senator when he is older.

"I'm looking forward to it," he said. "I want to see (Sen. Munson's) house."

Zack said he has done his part to help his school win the Blue Ribbon award. Zack said he goes home each day and studies.

"I do my homework, then I play with my friends," he said.

Hickory Elementary students performed for Grasmick, Munson and other officials during the celebration. Zo Vogt, 10, and Rebekah Russo, 10, were part of a group of fifth-graders who sang about good behavior in front of their classmates. Grasmick asked that the performance be recorded and shared at other Maryland schools.

Both girls said they were proud and excited about their school's state award.

"This is a very special day," Scuffins said.

Scuffins received a framed certificate; the school already received a Blue Ribbon flag. Hickory Elementary also received a $6,000 interactive white board for winning the state award and will be getting two new classroom libraries and $2,000.

However, the loudest cheers came when the children learned about another reward - a pizza party.

Other Washington County Public Schools to receive the award in the past are Hancock Middle-Senior High School, Salem Avenue and Smithsburg elementary schools and Northern Middle School.

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