Four Catholic elementary schools in the Diocese of Cleveland are celebrating a milestone, national achievement.
Officials at Incarnate Word Academy in Parma Heights, Lakewood Catholic Academy in Lakewood, St. Bernadette School in Westlake and St. Sebastian School in Akron officially learned on Sept. 19 that their schools were named 2023 National Blue Ribbon Schools. This is the 40th anniversary of the National Blue Ribbon Schools program, which has honored more than 9,000 institutions since 1983. Leaders of the winning schools will be invited to Washington, D.C. in November for an awards program and luncheon where they will receive their National Blue Ribbon School flag and plaque.
The four schools are among only 19 Ohio schools to earn the distinction this year. A total of 353 schools – 313 public and 40 non-public -- in 48 states, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity. Ohio had the fifth-highest number of Blue Ribbon Schools. Only California, with 33; Texas, with 29; New York, with 22; and Illinois with 20 ranked higher.
“This is an exciting day for our diocese,” said Monica Dietz, assistant superintendent in the diocesan Office of Catholic Education. “Our schools are academically excellent and this national Blue Ribbon award magnifies our outstanding instructional leaders, dedicated teachers and hardworking students. We are thrilled for these four exemplary, high-performing schools.”
Frank O’Linn, superintendent of schools for the diocese, and Tracey Arnone, associate superintendent, credit Dietz for her efforts in working closely with the schools to ensure they provide the best possible education for their students.
“To have four of the 19 schools in Ohio who received this award come from our diocese speaks volumes about the academic excellence in our schools,” Arnone said. “I am most proud of the principals and teachers of these four schools, and the way their high expectations for students led to the achievement of the National Blue Ribbon School Award.”
IWA, which opened in 1935 and serves 346 students in grades pre-kindergarten to eight, also was named a National Blue Ribbon School in 2013. It is a ministry of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament.
LCA, which opened in 2005 on the site of the former all-girls St. Augustine Academy, also serves pre-k to eighth graders. It was formed by the consolidation of three Catholic elementary schools in Lakewood: St. James, St. Luke and St. Clement. In 2010, the fourth Catholic elementary school in the city, SS. Cyril and Methodius, joined LCA.
St. Bernadette School, which opened in 1952, is celebrating its 71st anniversary this year. It serves nearly 400 students pre-k through eighth grade and is a ministry of St. Bernadette Parish.
St. Sebastian School was established in 1929 and it has an enrollment of about 300 students in grades K-8. The school previously was recognized for its STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) approach to education. In addition, it received the Governor’s Thomas Edison Award for STEM Education three consecutive years.
The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program is one of the U.S. Department of Education’s longest-running recognition programs. It recognizes outstanding public and non-public elementary, middle and high schools based on their overall high academic achievement or success in closing the achievement gap among diverse groups of students. The goals of the program are to shine a spotlight on the best schools in the country and to share best practices of outstanding schools across the United States.
The U.S. Department of Education works with state departments of education to identify and nominate outstanding schools for this coveted award based on student academic achievement measures and progress toward closing achievement gaps. Through a rigorous review process, the education department awards several hundred outstanding schools annually, to celebrate their achievement. This prestigious award serves not only as a symbol of exemplary American schools, but also as inspiration for schools across the nation. It affirms the hard work of students, educators, families and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students thrive.
National Blue Ribbon Schools represent the full diversity of American schools: public schools, including charter schools, magnet/choice schools, Title I schools and non-public schools including parochial and independent schools. The schools range in size, geographic locale (urban, suburban, and rural) and type. These schools serve students of every social, economic and ethnic background.
NBRS officials said leaders of the honored schools not only articulate a vision of excellence and hold everyone to high standards, but they also stay close to the real action of teaching and learning. Faculty are valued and supported through meaningful professional learning and opportunities to work as colleagues and peer supporters. Data from many sources drive instruction and student support services to ensure every student is set up to succeed. Families, communities and educators work together toward common goals.