Thursday, May 23, 2002

Seven schools win national honor

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

        Mariemont High School is one of seven Greater Cincinnati middle/high schools to be named a Blue Ribbon School, the highest honor given schools by the U.S. Department of Education.

        It is the third time Mariemont High has won the award since the program began in 1982. Nationwide, 172 schools learned of the honor Wednesday, about 1 percent of the nation's middle-high schools.

        Other Tristate schools joining Mariemont:

        • Liberty Junior School, Liberty Township, in Butler County's Lakota Local Schools.

        • Mason High School, Warren County.

        • Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, Sycamore Township.

        • St. Ursula Academy, East Walnut Hills.

        • Mother of Mercy High School, Westwood.

        • Villa Madonna Academy, Villa Hills.

        Criteria include student achievement, parental involvement, leadership and teaching.

        Mariemont earned the award in 1985 and 1989. (The awards program alternates each year between elementary and junior/senior high schools.)

        “I believe we're the only Ohio school to be recognized three times,” said Gerald Harris, superintendent of Mariemont Schools. “We hope we'll go to the White House again and meet President Bush. We met his father when he was president.”

        When Liberty Junior School Principal Ron Spurlock received a phone call Wednesday morning from the office of U.S. Rep. John Boehner, the school's TV station went on air with the announcement as a breaking news bulletin.

        “This has been an unbelievable year for us,” Mr. Spurlock said. “We're celebrating our 25th anniversary and we just got our proficiency scores — they're great. This is a way to cap it off.”

        At Villa Madonna Academy, Principal Pamela McQueen screamed in delight when she took a phone call from U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas' office.

        “It means that we are recognized for the good school we are,” said Mrs. McQueen, who spent six months writing the application for the 168-student school. “Going through the whole process was an opportunity to look also at how we can be even better.”

        For Mason, the honor means that all of the district's schools eligible for the designation — Mason Heights, Western Row, Mason Middle — have now received it.

        “It's evidence of the hard work of the faculty at the high school,” said Shelly Benesh Hausman, district spokeswoman

        This is the last year of the Blue Ribbon program, which will be revised next year with a stronger emphasis on student achievement and an expected name change to reflect priorities of the No Child Left Behind Act, according to a U.S. DOE spokeswoman.

        The program is expected to honor schools that close the achievement gap between underprivileged students and their peers.

        Earnest Winston contributed to this report.


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