Powell Middle School recognized as National Blue Ribbon School

Posted 9/23/21

Powell Middle School has been named a National Blue Ribbon School, considered the highest honor an American school can achieve.

“Powell Middle School is one of only five middle schools in …

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Powell Middle School recognized as National Blue Ribbon School


Powell Middle School has been named a National Blue Ribbon School, considered the highest honor an American school can achieve.

“Powell Middle School is one of only five middle schools in the nation to be recognized in the category of Exemplary High Performing, which is an astounding accomplishment,” said Jay Curtis, superintendent of Park County School District 1. “This is truly a testament to not only the hard work of our staff and students, but of the culture of high expectations and support that pervades that school.”

The recognition is based on the school’s overall academic performance.

Curtis said he “could not be more proud” of the middle school’s Blue Ribbon recognition, adding, “achieving at that level is only possible when schools have incredible support from parents and community in the way that our schools do.”

“This is truly a congratulations for the middle school and the community that supports it so well!” he said Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Education officially announced the Blue Ribbon award on Tuesday. The honor is “the pinnacle of all recognitions or awards a school can receive,” said Kyle Rohrer, principal of Powell Middle School.

He noted that while several schools receive “exemplary” ratings from the state following assessments, only two in the entire state received a National Blue Ribbon award in 2021: Powell Middle School and Tongue River Elementary School in Ranchester. They are among only 325 schools in the nation to receive the recognition this year.

Recipients are typically elementary schools, which made Powell Middle School’s honor even more rare.

“In the history of Wyoming, very few secondary schools are selected for this award,” Rohrer said Wednesday.

The middle school staff was surprised when they first heard about the nomination, “especially due to the fact that we didn’t have assessment results from the 2019-2020 school year,” said Chanler Buck, assistant principal of Powell Middle School, but they  learned the nomination stemmed from the 2018-19 assessments and prior results.

Buck called the recognition “truly humbling.”

Rohrer said that “an award of this magnitude is a testament to all of the staff members that play a role in our students’ day.”

“We strive for excellence regardless of position,” he said, “and I am proud of the amazing professionals that work for our students.”

Over the past 10 years, all three of Powell’s elementary schools — Parkside, Southside and Westside — have been recognized with National Blue Ribbons.

“... So it’s clear that we are receiving students that are eager to learn and have the foundation of learning in place for our school and staff to continue to help the students reach their full potential,” Rohrer said.

At the middle school, Professional Learning Communities are rooted in collaboration and teamwork, allowing the school to utilize best practices on a daily basis, he said.

“Our staff is committed to, ‘Doing What’s Best for Kids!’ and they work tirelessly to help each and every one of them meet or exceed expectations,” Rohrer said. 

Four years ago, the school reexamined its schedule to ensure time with students is maximized. The school also worked to develop systems to support its practices.  

“These changes and continually examining these items has allowed us to continue to push to higher levels,” Rohrer said.

He also recognized former Powell Middle School Principal Jason Sleep, who led the school for 14 years before becoming the district’s assistant superintendent, “for the foundation he set.”  

“... his vision and leadership truly put Powell Middle School on the map as a top-performing school,” Rohrer said.

He noted that “an accomplishment of this magnitude doesn’t happen over a short period of time.”

“This award is the outcome of years of hard work and support from district administration, the school board, and the families in this great community,” Rohrer said. “Without the high level of support, our staff wouldn’t be able to deliver the high level of teaching and learning that happens on a daily basis at Powell Middle School.”

In a Tuesday statement, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona commended Blue Ribbon honorees for “working to keep students healthy and safe while meeting their academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs.”

“In the face of unprecedented circumstances, you found creative ways to engage, care for, protect, and teach our children,” Cardona said, adding, “Blue Ribbon Schools have so much to offer and can serve as a model for other schools and communities so that we can truly build back better.”

Although the past 18 months amid the COVID pandemic have been difficult, Rohrer said those at Powell Middle School “wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

“We are resilient and we do our best to take care of each other,” he said, adding, “We realize there are many things happening around us that present challenges, but we are committed to focusing on what we can control.”

Now in its 39th year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools award affirms “the hard work of educators, families and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content,” the Department of Education said.