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Southmoreland Elementary recognized as National Blue Ribbon School

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Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

National recognition has come the way of Southmoreland Elementary School.

It was announced Sept. 24 that the school was recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School — one of just 286 schools in the country to be so recognized and one of just 15 in Pennsylvania.

The announcement was made by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes schools where students perform at very high levels or where significant improvements are being made in student levels of academic achievement.

“These great American schools earned this recognition because their students are achieving at the highest level in their state or because their students are making outstanding improvements in their level of academic achievement,” Duncan said via the Education Department's USTREAM channel.

John Lee, principal of Southmoreland Elementary School, made an announcement to the rest of the school of the honor it had received.

“I think it's a great honor,” Lee said. “It means we've done a lot of work over the last several years improving achievements with kids, raising the bar with kids. We have a plan in mind to work with kids and make sure we give them the best possible education. We've been kind of looking forward to see if we received this since we applied for it.”

A letter from Lee was sent home with students to inform their parents the school was selected as a National Blue Ribbon School

The program has been in existence since 1982. In that time, nearly 7,500 schools have received the award.

To be considered, a school must be nominated by the top education official in the state. The nomination of Southmoreland Elementary was submitted by former Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis.

“Southmoreland Elementary School, along with the entire Southmoreland School District, has transformed itself over the past several years from a group of hard-working, well-intentioned teachers working in isolation into a place wherein a culture of total collaboration has become the norm,” said John Molnar, Southmoreland superintendent. “The synergistic effect of this paradigm shift is clearly demonstrated by (this) announcement. I, along with (Assistant Superintendent Timothy) Scott and the rest of the administrative team, congratulate the principal, faculty, staff and students of Southmoreland Elementary School on this prestigious award.

“We also recognize the work of the faculty and staff of Southmoreland Elementary School's feeder school, Southmoreland Primary Center. Students who arrive at SES from the primary center are well prepared and ready to continue their learning at the highest levels possible. (This) award is the most recent in a series of honors that recognize the accomplishments of the Southmoreland School District as we continue our upward trajectory and our quest for excellence. I am very proud to be part of this organization.”

Southmoreland Middle School was selected in 2012 as one of 10 Breakthrough Schools in the country through the National Association of Secondary School Principals, in conjunction with MetLife.

Molnar also said the elementary school would receive a flag designating it as a National Blue Ribbon School.

“A National Blue Ribbons flag waving overhead has become a trademark of excellence, a symbol of quality recognized by everyone from parents to policy makers in thousands of communities,” Molnar said

School Board President Levi Miller also expressed pride in the elementary school's achievement.

Our Southmoreland administrators and teachers have created a collaborative culture of educational excellence,” Miller said. “That means we are all a part of this honor: students, parents and taxpayers.”

The elementary school, along with the other chosen schools, will be honored at a recognition ceremony Nov. 18-19 in Washington D.C. which Lee and Scott plan to attend.

Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or

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