The Oakwood Elementary School building in Oakwood, Ohio.
The Oakwood Elementary School building in Oakwood, Ohio.


     OAKWOOD – As reported by The Progress last week, the Oakwood Elementary school was notified on Oct. 1 that it is has been named to the list of National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2018.

    Created in 1982, the National Blue Ribbon Schools program is part of the United States Department of Education. According to the Blue Ribbon website, the program was created by the Department of Education, “to bring public attention to the best schools in the United States and to facilitate communication and sharing of best practices within and among schools.” The Blue Ribbon website also states that the award promotes school pride and staff confidence. Since its inception 36 years ago, nearly 9,000 schools have been named to this prestigious list.

    Jennifer Manz, principal at Oakwood elementary school since 2007, stated there was quite a process involved in being honored as a Blue Ribbon school. She indicated the school was first notified in January of this year that it was being considered as a candidate.

    Schools are nominated by their Chief State School Officer (CSSO) based on performance, ratings, test scores over several years and other factors. Once the school is nominated by the CSSO, they are invited by the Department of Education to apply for the award. No interviews or site visits are part of the process. In the state of Ohio, only 14 schools are nominated per year.

    The lengthy application process was completed throughout the spring, mostly by Manz. She stated that all the teachers were instrumental in providing input where needed as well.

    In addition, there was also a group of four teachers who assisted with editing. The application has eight major sections: eligibility certification, demographic data, summary, curriculum and instruction, school supports, indicators of academic success, non-public school information and assessment results for norm referenced tests. Each one of the major sections requires a multitude of material, facts and data which required many hours of preparation.

    The award recipients seem to have several commonalities when examining application data. The top four key drivers for success for these schools are: student supports, instruction, school structure and curriculum.

    Student supports include whole child education, family engagement, and positive school culture. Instruction consists of project based learning as well as student-specific support. School structure refers to strong leadership and effective teachers. Finally, curriculum incorporates STEM, college and career programs. These key elements are present in nearly all the data shared in the Blue Ribbon Schools’ demographic information.

    A national awards ceremony will be held in Washington, D.C., Nov. 7-8 with Manz and Deedi Miller, preschool teacher, attending.

    While in Washington, Manz and Miller will participate in networking and small group discussions, and will attend a special awards luncheon. At the awards luncheon, each school will receive the National Blue Ribbon School flag and an engraved plaque. Manz indicated a celebration is forthcoming later this month for students.

    Feedback from the community has been positive. Manz said she has received emails from former students complimenting both her and the school on this achievement. Parents and teachers are pleased their school is being recognized. The staff is excited to see their hard work and dedication acknowledged.

    When asked what this award brings to the school, Manz did not hesitate to show her appreciation to her staff. “I know this is what my staff does. The culture here is amazing. I feel fortunate to work here every day. This award is a validation. We are moving students here in the right direction.”