Charlesmont named a Blue Ribbon school by state
Wednesday, 02 January 2013 12:35

Proudly displaying their award certificate and banner at Charlesmont Elementary are (from left) principal Marsha Ayres and teachers Kelly Romeo, Janelle Filling, Heather Young, Claire Blessing and Tatiana Lowers.
photo by Nicole Rodman

Local school receives state’s highest honor

by Nicole Rodman

When Charlesmont Elementary School principal Marsha Ayres was called to a meeting with the Maryland State Department of Education last month, she was understandably nervous.
    Assured that the meeting was not negative, Ayres and five of her teachers headed down to what they thought would be a working session to discuss Charlesmont’s test scores.
    Instead, Ayres and her colleagues learned that Charlesmont Elementary School is being named a 2013 Maryland Blue Ribbon School.
    Administered by the Maryland State Department of Education, the Blue Ribbon Schools program recognizes schools that have achieved high test scores and dramatic improvement in student achievement.
    Charlesmont was one of just six schools in the state to receive the honor this year. Only one other elementary school received the honor.
    In an interview at her school last week, Ayres was still smiling as she recalled hearing the news of Charlesmont’s honor.
    As Ayres and her teachers arrived for the meeting at the Maryland State Department of Education headquarters, they were ushered into a room where they received the good news.
    On hand to share in the event were Baltimore County Public Schools superintendent S. Dallas Dance and County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.
    Reflecting on the event, Ayres called it a “wonderful recognition of the staff, students and families” at Charlesmont.
    “It was a great Christmas present,” she added, smiling.
    On the way back from the meeting at the Department of Education headquarters, Ayres and her teachers planned an assembly to reveal the news to students and staff.
    Later that afternoon, Ayres revealed the news to a crowd of cheering, enthusiastic students and teachers.
    “It was hard to keep them quiet,” Ayres laughed, recalling the noise.
    Charlesmont received the coveted Blue Ribbon distinction after achieving high scores on last year’s standardized tests.
    At Charlesmont last year, more than 97.5 percent of students scored as proficient or advanced in reading while 98.7 percent were proficient or advanced in mathematics.
    In addition, a press release issued by the State Department of Education cited high parent involvement as a key factor in its decision to award Charlesmont the Blue Ribbon honor.
    Other factors that impressed the Blue Ribbon committee included academic enrichment programs such as the 100 Book Challenge and the school’s annual STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fair.
    As the press release also noted, Charlesmont was one of just two Title I schools to receive the honor. (The other was Chadwick Elementary in Baltimore County).
    A Title I school is one with a high percentage of economically-disadvantaged students.
    Dance noted that, though Charlesmont and Chadwick are both Title I schools, they have been able to achieve great things.
    “It is noteworthy that both Chadwick and Charlesmont are Title I schools with high percentages of students from economically-disadvantaged families and communities,” Dance explained.
    He added, “The success of these schools proves once again that family income does not determine academic achievement. Great teachers and principals, involved parents, a strong academic program, and engaged students make all the difference.”
    Charlesmont principal Ayres agreed, noting “Because we are a Title I school doesn’t mean our boys and girls can’t achieve.”
    While Charlesmont is now eligible to apply for a national Blue Ribbon distinction from the U.S. Department of Education, there are other benefits as well.
    As a Blue Ribbon School, Charlesmont will receive a cash award as well as a free whiteboard for classroom use.
    In addition, a new mural will be painted in the school’s hallway and students and staff will be treated to a schoolwide pizza party.
    In March, Ayres and 30 staff members will attend a dinner for Blue Ribbon School honorees in Annapolis.
    They will also receive an award on the floor of the Maryland General Assembly.
    And, while Ayres is gratified by the kudos, she knows it is the students, teachers and parents that have truly earned the award.
    As she noted last week, “I think we have a collaborative learning community.”