St. James in Arlington Heights among 21 schools in Illinois to win National Blue Ribbon
Students, teachers and staff at St. James School in Arlington Heights are celebrating their receipt of a coveted National Blue Ribbon Schools award, the second in the school's history.
The award was one of 21 given out Thursday to schools in Illinois by the U.S. Department of Education. The list includes St. Paul of the Cross in Park Ridge, Field Middle School in Northbrook, Indian Trail Elementary in Highland Park, H.R. McCall Elementary in Waukegan, and the School of St. Mary and Woodlands Academy, both in Lake Forest.
Nationwide, the education department bestowed the Blue Ribbon prize on 317 public schools and 50 nonpublic schools.
At St. James, students and teachers learned the news during a 3 p.m. virtual pep rally emceed by Principal Mike Kendrick, who placed a "2020" sticker on the 2008 Blue Ribbon banner hanging on his office door -- when the school first won the award. The pre-K to grade 8 school is being recognized in the exemplary high performing schools category.
"I am just radiating with joy over this," said Kendrick, who is in his second year as principal. "It is a great day to be a Bulldog."
After watching the rally from their classrooms, students put on blue ribbons, carried signs saying "We Did It!" and were dismissed into the parking lot for a celebration with music and a big balloon arch. Most of the school's 500 students have returned for in-person learning, though some are participating remotely from home.
In their 17-page application for the award, St. James administrators outlined the school's core instructional practices, multi-tier system of supports, and positive behavior interventions and supports program.
They also noted the school mantra, "Find a Way," which challenges faculty and staff to help students "succeed to their highest potential academically, develop a strong moral compass, embrace a culture of inclusion, differentiate at a high level, and build a faith foundation that will stay with the students throughout their lives."
"This mantra represents our relentless efforts to do what is best for the kids no matter the circumstances," Kendrick said. "The National Blue Ribbon Award is a validation that our teachers, parents, parish and school community has found that way."
Since 1982, nearly 10,000 Blue Ribbons have been awarded to more than 9,000 schools across the country. Past awardees like St. James are eligible for nomination again after five years.
This year's winners will participate in a virtual awards ceremony Nov. 12-13 and receive their plaques and flags in the mail.