Strong school a blue-ribbon winner

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STRONG – Strong Elementary School students always strive to be the best, says district Superintendent Quenten Clark.

“Whatever they do, they do well,” he adds.

State assessment tests are no exception.

Strong was selected as one of three schools in the state to be named as a 2005 No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon School, an award based on Maine educational assessment scores over at least five years. A school must be considered “high achieving” in math and reading based on the MEAs, have a minority group – Strong qualified for low socio-economic status – offer a foreign language to at least eighth graders (Strong offers modern French to grades K-8), enjoy a 95 percent average daily attendance by students and teachers, and show good annual progress.

While the school knew about the award for several months, it wasn’t until Tuesday night that the community came together to celebrate with a barbecue and plaque presentation by George Tucker of the Maine Department of Education.

State Sen. Chandler Woodcock and Rep. Tom Saviello were also there to give their congratulations, as well as representatives from the offices of Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe and U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud.

In a letter to the school, Collins said she was proud of the students, teachers, parents and administrators who worked to “make Strong Elementary one of our country’s best. This award is well deserved and it means that Strong stands as an example for schools both in the state of Maine and across the nation.”

Also in a letter, Snowe gave credit not only to the students who took the test and their teachers, but the entire community. “If principals set high standards, if teachers teach well, if students work and learn, if parents and other community leaders stay involved and stay supportive, an atmosphere of success is created.”

Principal Felecia Pease sees the blue ribbon award as an opportunity to expand the Strong community. “If people are looking at moving to the area or bringing jobs and business here, then they will look at our school and see that we are a National Blue Ribbon school and say, I’d like my child to go there.'”

Strong Elementary was nominated for the award because of its scores in reading and math, but it’s the math in which the students here really shine, Clark says. He applauds the work of math teachers like Mary-Jane Martin, who teaches fourth and fifth grade.

Martin says it is the “consistency of the staff and the consistency of the program. We’re willing to try new things.”

And rather than dread the coming standardized assessment tests, her students make them fun.

“We almost celebrate taking the test,” she says. “They see that their successes are rewarded.”

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