Four Long Island elementary schools won National Blue Ribbon School honors Tuesday, recognized among 286 schools across the country by the U.S. Department of Education for outstanding academic achievement.
The schools cited as "exemplary high performing" were Bayville Elementary School in the Locust Valley district, Kramer Lane Elementary School in the Bethpage district, Shaw Avenue Elementary School in the Valley Stream 30 district and West Side School in the Cold Spring Harbor district.
The award honors public and private elementary, middle and high schools where students perform at very high levels or where significant improvements are being made in students' levels of achievement.
"We are the first school in the district that has ever been awarded this award," Kramer Lane principal Kerri McCarthy said. "It is very exciting."
McCarthy, a longtime teacher in the district before becoming an administrator, attributed the school's success to close collaboration among the staff, students and community. Kramer Lane has about 350 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.
"We are a smaller school so we do have that family feeling here," she said.
Students at Shaw Avenue Elementary School in Valley Stream watched the live Internet video of Education Secretary Arne Duncan's announcement. Wednesday, staff and students will wear blue to class, walking hallways decorated with arches of blue balloons. The school has more than 720 students in grades K-6.
"We work together for a common goal and we want to provide the best education possible, regardless of the challenges we have," principal Amy Pernick said. "Even though it is really an award for one year, I feel for us, it has been an achievement built over so many years."
Bayville Elementary, with a total of about 415 students in separate buildings for grades K-2 and 3-5, is a place where much of the staff lives in the community and are themselves graduates of the local schools.
"We reach out to children . . . and support them one child at a time. It requires a lot of homework to do that," district superintendent Anna Hunderfund said. "You have to understand the child and the child's needs and strengths."
Educators at West Side School in Laurel Hollow believe in empowering students at the school for grades 2-6, which has almost 250 students. A student committee will determine how the school will celebrate its National Blue Ribbon School distinction.
"Our goal is the independence of the kids and empowering them to help each other," principal Kurt Simon said.
The Education Department will honor the 236 public and 50 private schools named this year at ceremonies Nov. 18-19 in Washington, D.C. To select National Blue Ribbon Schools, the department requested nominations from the top education official in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Department of Defense Education Activity and the Bureau of Indian Education. In its 31-year history, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has named nearly 7,500 schools nationwide.