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September 18, 2012 7:49 am

Blue Ribbon for Pride

Written by Dante Geoffrey

Parkside principal Kenny Jones reads from Shel Silverstein’s ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’ to a group of second-grade students in Ms. Vrendenburg’s classroom Sept. 13. The U.S. Department of Education recently recognized Parkside as a National Blue Ribbon School.  Parkside principal Kenny Jones reads from Shel Silverstein’s ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’ to a group of second-grade students in Ms. Vrendenburg’s classroom Sept. 13. The U.S. Department of Education recently recognized Parkside as a National Blue Ribbon School. Tribune photo by Dante Geoffrey

Parkside recognized by U.S. Department of Education

Parkside Elementary has been recognized as a 2012 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education, one of only three schools in the state to earn the honor.

“The staff and students are very deserving of this prestigious award,” Park County School District No. 1 superintendent Kevin Mitchell said in a press release last week. “The staff has quietly worked very hard to meet the needs of each child supported by Kenny’s leadership.”

Due to 40 percent of its students being considered “disadvantaged,” Parkside qualified for the exemplary improvement school nomination, but its Proficiency Assessment for Wyoming Students (PAWS) scores were good enough for the school be nominated as an exemplary high-performance school.

“(That) makes the honor that our staff and kids received even greater,” Parkside principal Kenny Jones said. “We’re truly a differentiated school; we meet the needs of kids, no matter what. Kids are all the same; they’re all educated the same.”

Besides his staff, Jones credits Park County School District No. 1 and the Powell community for the school’s success.

Jones said district schools support and help each other, especially during workshops and educational opportunities. The schools all are relying on each other as they learn how to best transition to the common core standards, he said.

Parents and the community also played a role in making Parkside a Blue Ribbon School.

“It’s a reflection of Powell, because that’s what Powell expects,” Jones said at the Sept. 11 school board meeting.

Jones recalled when the high school gym and auditorium needed to be built larger than the state would fund. At the request of district leaders, lawmakers passed a bill allowing for community-funded enhancements to school construction projects, then voters in the school district passed a bond to provide the extra money needed to expand the gym and auditorium.

Last year, a parent group redecorated the staff lounge at Parkside, installing new cabinets, painting the walls and buying a new table and couch.

“The community has always come to support the schools in Powell,” Jones said. “And in turn, and in fairness, they have a high expectation of their schools. It’s a two-way street.”

The long process for award started in January this year when Jones was told Parkside was nominated to receive recognition as a Blue Ribbon School. At that point, Jones gathered his staff and broke them into groups that would research and complete different sections of the application.

Jones said the application, which was submitted in early March, was in depth and required a lot of time and effort.

“(We had to) go back five years worth of PAWS data and report that for third, fourth and fifth grade,” Jones said.

The Blue Ribbon award takes into consideration average yearly progress (AYP). Based on PAWS, AYP goals must be met in order to be a Blue Ribbon School. After Parkside students had taken PAWS and the application was submitted, Jones and his staff found out that there were new average yearly progress goals this year.

“We had a little bit of concern because of the changes in PAWS,” Jones said. “The target being moved after the fact is what made us nervous.”

But Parkside did hit the new AYP goals, something Jones said is just as good as being a Blue Ribbon School.

Jones said Parkside has never missed adequate yearly progress, and making it again this year was “a real point of pride.”

Approximately 219 public schools and 50 private schools received the honor nationally, according to a U.S. Department of Education press release last month.

Star Valley High School in Afton and Meadowlark Elementary in Sheridan were the only other Wyoming schools to receive the honor.

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