NEW FRANKLIN  Nolley Elementary Principal Christi Pappas had a feeling the school would be awarded a Blue Ribbon School by the U. S. Department of Education. Therefore, she prepared a celebration for the staff and students.

As the 455 students were seated in the school gym on Sept. 28, they watched the awards announcement via live stream by U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

"They made the announcements alphabetically by state, and we kept waiting for Ohio," Pappas said. "The announcement finally came that Nolley Elementary was named a Blue Ribbon School and the students erupted with excitement.

"It simply validated the hard work of the students, staff, parents and community," Pappas said.

Nolley Elementary was only one of nine schools in Ohio to be chosen for this award in its category.

The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes public and private elementary, middle and high schools based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. Every year, the U. S. Department of Education seeks out and celebrates great American schools, schools demonstrating that all students can achieve to high levels. More than 7,500 of schools across the country have been presented with this coveted award.

Pappas and school counselor Jen Prexta will travel to Washington D.C., Nov. 6 to receive a plaque for the school in a special awards ceremony. 

The school has 455 students in grades 1-4 and 50 teachers, teachers aides and staff. Pappas, who has been principal for nine years, and her staff have worked to improve reading and test scores.

"In the last several years, we changed our approach to teaching and learning, so that every student benefits," she said. "We wanted to see each student take ownership of their learning."

Pappas learned of the nomination by the State of Ohio Board of Education and announced it to the school board in February. After that announcement, Pappas and her staff had to fill out an extensive profile which was reviewed by the U.S. Department of Education. 

Nolley Elementary was nominated in the "Exemplary High Performing" category, which is measured by state assessments in which a school has to have completed test scores in the top 15 percent in the state. Test scores for math for the third grade were 90 percent and in English and language arts, test scores were 92 percent. For the fourth grade, English and language arts test scores were 95 percent and math scores were 95 percent.  Pappas added that the school was also chosen based on categories such a student involvement, climate and parent and community participation.

As part of the nomination submission, the school provided a summary of its mission. In part it reads: "Our schools are the heart of the community, and we work closely with our families to provide the best overall social, emotional and academic environment. Nolley is a Leader in Me school with a mission of developing leaders one child at a time. We shine academically because of our student vision. Regardless of the home life or socioeconomic status of our families, our students are high achievers dut to the teaching practices and positive school environment we embrace."

After the announcement, students received blue snacks, painted a poster with blue letters, then went outside where the PTA had organized a celebration with a disc jockey, blue balloons and games.