By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published October 3, 2019
ATLANTA—Three Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Atlanta were recognized as 2019 National Blue Ribbon Schools on Thursday, Sept. 26.
The three schools honored were Queen of Angels in Roswell, Immaculate Heart of Mary and Our Lady of the Assumption in Atlanta. All three schools received this award for the second time.
Since 1982, the U.S. Department of Education has identified more than 8,500 public and non-public schools, celebrating their excellence in education through effective teaching and learning at all grade levels with all students. This year, 362 schools received the award across the country. Fifty private schools were among those winners.
“We are very proud to have three of our archdiocesan grade schools recognized for outstanding student achievement,” said Dr. Diane Starkovich, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
In the archdiocese, 75% of the schools have achieved this coveted National Blue Ribbon School award. All three schools were recognized as exemplary high-performing schools due to the performance of students on the nationally normed Iowa Assessments tests. The Blue Ribbon program has another category to honor schools that work hard to close achievement gaps.
“We recognize and honor your important work in preparing students for successful careers and meaningful lives,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in a video message to this year’s honorees. “Your school demonstrates what is possible when committed educators hold all students and staff to high standards and create vibrant, innovative cultures of teaching and learning.”
Representatives from each school, along with Dr. Starkovich, will attend a recognition ceremony in Washington, D.C. this November.
Queen of Angels
This is the second Blue Ribbon award for Queen of Angels School in Roswell, which received its first award in 2007. Students and teachers were called for an assembly in the gym, not knowing the reason for the special occasion.
Starkovich asked the students to reflect on the moments where they achieved a goal after hard work, such as getting a perfect score on a spelling test or selling tickets for a fundraiser. Once she announced the Blue Ribbon award, screams and applause from teachers and students filled the gymnasium.
“The culture and environment of your school, the hard work of your teachers, the support of your parents and everything that you do at Queen of Angels Catholic School made this award possible,” said Starkovich.
The award “affirms the academic excellence of Queen of Angels,” said Dr. Jamie Arthur, principal of the school since 2017. “The true success lies in integrating the spiritual, physical and moral dimensions and having a program that engages its families,” she said.
Faculty and students cheered when the new Blue Ribbon School banner was revealed. Students received blue lollipops as a treat to celebrate. Faculty, staff and students later gathered for a picture outside of the building underneath the new Blue Ribbon banner.
Queen of Angels is a kindergarten through 8th grade school that serves 480 students from 18 Catholic parishes and faith communities in north Fulton metro Atlanta. The school celebrates 20 years in the Atlanta Archdiocese.
Our Lady of the Assumption
Lisa Cordell, principal of Our Lady of the Assumption, believes this year’s award “honors what we are as a school and parish community and recognizes the value we place on a Catholic education and what we do to educate the whole child.”
Cordell has been with the school since 1999. In addition to developing skills in critical thinking and problem solving, she believes the teachers “build a learning environment where students thrive and grow in spiritual, academic and social development.”
Established in 1951 and later opening in 1952, Our Lady of the Assumption serves more than 500 students in grades pre-kindergarten through 8th grade. The school earned its first Blue Ribbon in 2011.
A massive Blue Ribbon was placed on the school’s front door to mark the special occasion and students gathered to hear the news. A video of what the award means for the school community can be found on the school’s Facebook page.
Immaculate Heart of Mary
“Receiving this award just affirms what we already know about our school, but being able to maintain this high level of excellence for future generations is always our goal,” said Kellie DesOrmeaux, principal of Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Atlanta since 2016.
Parents have a range of educational options for their child, so the award signals the school’s academic standards combining high-test scores with well-rounded offerings and faith guiding all things, said DesOrmeaux.
The principal played a round of Blue’s Clues with the students to allow them to guess the announcement regarding the school’s Blue Ribbon status. To celebrate, students were surrounded by blue streamers, poppers, balloons and ribbons and took home lollipops and pinwheels.
Immaculate Heart of Mary was established as a parish school in 1958. This school serves students in kindergarten through 8th grade.
More than 400 IHM students represent 18 parishes in the Atlanta Archdiocese, with families in 35 different zip codes. Immaculate Heart of Mary received its first Blue Ribbon in 2009.
Staff Writer Andrew Nelson contributed to this story.