Blue Ribbon Schools: ‘Not Built Overnight’

Anthony Morey says he doesn’t know the magic recipe to being designated a Blue Ribbon School. But the Wealthy Elementary School principal is pretty confident about a few of the ingredients, and says every school in the district has them in their mix.

Wealthy Elementary recently was named one of 13 schools in the state and just 335 nationwide to be designated as a Blue Ribbon School. Other honorees from the region were Brown Elementary in Byron Center Public Schools, Bursley Elementary in Jenison Public Schools and Forest Grove Elementary in Hudsonville Public Schools.

“It would be audacious of me to try to put my finger on the one thing, but it really is attributable to the whole school community,” Morey said. “I think to achieve this reflects that we’re firing on all cylinders.”

The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program, started in 1982, honors public and private elementary, middle and high schools where students either achieve very high learning standards or are making notable improvements in closing the achievement gap.

The organization allows a proportional number of schools to be invited by every state to apply. Wealthy Elementary put together a team to contribute to the application, Morey said.

“It’s almost like an accreditation process,” he said. “There’s a narrative form, data sets you provide over a five-year period… working through that was a multi-month project.”

Morey thinks the district’s increased test scores in elementary math and science helped bolster their application, as well as the adoption of new teaching materials, a renewed focus on writing, strong parental involvement and, of course, committed teachers.

Wealthy Elementary Principal Anthony Morey outside a fourth grade classroom, where students work with pop-bottle insect habitats made with help from parent volunteers“Effective school systems aren’t built overnight,” Morey acknowledged. “We don’t rest on our laurels and we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.”

“It’s really an acknowledgment of the work we do collectively as a school system,” said district Superintendent Dr. Sara Magaña Shubel.

The Department will honor 285 public and 50 private schools nationally at the recognition ceremony on Nov. 9-10 in Washington, D.C. In its 33-year history, the program has bestowed the award on more than 8,000 of America’s schools.

Throughout its history, all EGRPS elementary schools, middle school and high school have received various recognitions from both a state and national perspective on quality teaching and learning environments. Both the high school and the middle school are past Blue Ribbon honorees.

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National Blue Ribbon Schools Program

Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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