Webber Elementary was one of 325 schools nationwide to be named a National Blue Ribbon School for 2021, Lake Orion Community Schools announced last week.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona recognized 325 schools, including 13 schools in Michigan, on Tuesday, according to information from the U.S. Department of Education.
“This year’s cohort of honorees demonstrates what is possible when committed educators and school leaders create vibrant, welcoming, and affirming school cultures where rich teaching and learning can flourish,” said Secretary Cardona. “I commend all our Blue Ribbon honorees for working to keep students healthy and safe while meeting their academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs. In the face of unprecedented circumstances, you found creative ways to engage, care for, protect, and teach our children. Blue Ribbon Schools have so much to offer and can serve as a model for other schools and communities so that we can truly build back better.”
The recognition is based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. Secretary Cardona made the announcement during his Return to School Road Trip, while visiting Walter R. Sundling Jr. High School, in Palatine, Illinois.
“The Webber staff is continually engaging in professional development to increase the effectiveness of their instruction and interventions. We are always looking for ways to improve what we do in our classrooms and our school community. We see very strong academic and emotional growth from our students, and we celebrate this every step of the way,” Webber Elementary Principal Jennifer Goethals wrote in the school’s application.
“I am so proud of the dedication that our students, staff, and parents continue to show every year,” said Goethals, who is now in her fifth year as Webber’s principal. “We have had a lot of change and challenges the past few years and we stayed on course with our commitment to student success. It is exciting for the Webber community to be recognized for all of our hard work!”
Under her leadership, Webber has embraced the Positivity Project, incorporating the program into many aspects of its 510-student school culture which has united the school community and created an atmosphere of inclusivity, encouragement, and kindness. Promoting good citizenship and positive character traits connects the students and staff members, said LOCS.
According to LOCS administration, with quarterly assessments, the staff is available to support students who need assistance and guide those who are on a strong path. Engaged students and families, a professional culture, strong leadership and culturally responsive teaching and learning show Webber as deserving of this high honor.
“This meaningful honor is a cumulative effort resulting from collaboration with families and school staff,” LOCS Superintendent Ben Kirby said. “The leadership of Mrs. Goethals and her instructional staff is proactive while being responsive to the needs of all learners at Webber Elementary. This recognition is an honor for the entire Dragon Community. I am proud of our students, staff, and families for the cultural and academic achievements demonstrated by our students.”
Since the first awards in 1983, three LOCS schools have received the National Blue Ribbon School designation: Pine Tree Elementary (1997), Lake Orion High School (2000) and Stadium Drive Elementary (2001).
The National Blue Ribbon Schools award recognizes “the hard work of educators, families and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content,” the U.S. Dept. of Education award announcement stated.
Now in its 39th year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has given approximately 10,000 awards to more than 9,000 schools.
The other schools in Oakland County that received recognition were Conant Elementary School in the Bloomfield Hills School district and Barnard and Leonard elementary schools in the Troy school district.