- Sponsorship -

Terrific Trifecta

Three Blue Ribbons in Three Years for District Grade Schools

Countryside Elementary has joined Brown and Marshall schools as a National Blue Ribbon School winner, giving the district the distinction that all three of its elementary schools have received the honor in the past three years.

“The biggest thing is the staff here is very passionate and committed to the idea that people and culture and relationships are what matter most,” said Countryside Principal Jolynne Dobson. “When that’s done really well the academic achievement come along with it. They have never been willing to shortcut that just for test scores.”

Countryside, which enrolls about 520 students, is among 13 Michigan schools to receive the recognition this year. The U.S. Department of Education is honoring 342 schools nationwide at a recognition ceremony on Nov. 6-7 in Washington, D.C. Each school receives a banner and plaque.

In its 35-year history, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed this coveted award upon more than 8,500 of America’s public and private schools.

Countryside was recognized in the category of Exemplary High Performing Schools for being among the state’s top-achieving schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests. Student subgroup performance and high school graduation rates are also at the highest levels.

First-graders Evie Jones, in front, and Sophia O’Keefe practice their reading skills

“We are incredibly proud of the kids,” Dobson said. “Our theme this year is ‘Got Grit?’ This whole award has made me realize our kids already do have grit. … It boils down to them. They are the ones that care and work hard.”

Dobson also credited the Professional Learning Communities (PLC) process the district has been going through in the past six years, increasing collaboration, aligning curriculum and creating a sense that all schools in the district are working together. The elementary principals’ motto is, “We are one elementary school in three buildings.”

In Dobson’s six years as principal, the district has aligned K-12 reading, writing and math curriculums and have sent more than 70 teachers for training in reading and writing instruction to Teachers College at Columbia University, in New York. They’ve also worked with a Kent ISD consultant in math to implement strategies for students to comprehend math using different methods.

The success of the district speaks volumes about its leadership, she said, adding Superintendent Dan Takens is “passionate about every child.”

Takens said meeting the needs of the whole child, so all students are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged, is “the bedrock for children to reach their emotional, social and cognitive potential.” Staff, parents and students share the expectation that all children can and should reach grade-level proficiency, he said.

“Teaching and learning-wise, the PLC culture, along with the very focused reading and writing workshop (and) all three elementary schools working in collaboration, has been the capstone for high student achievement in all elementary schools,” Takens said.

The community is very supportive, and programs connect students to resources like food and mentoring, Dobson said: “All of that factors into why Byron is so successful as a district.”

- Sponsorship -
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.


Fourth-grade hockey fan gets a magical hour on ice: ‘I made the shot!’

Raised as a Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins hockey fan, Jackson Solow lights up while skating on an ice rink wearing his favorite hockey jersey...

‘This time it is continued learning’

One school’s switch from in-person to virtual education last week was nearly seamless, especially when compared with the forced school closure in March...

Foundation grants $28,285 in fall funding requests

Virtual phys ed and art experiences, materials to improve classroom focus and books on social issues aimed at middle-schoolers are among the grants approved this fall...

Latest school closings expand on state-ordered high school mandate

More Kent County districts continue to announce temporary school building closures, as schools contend with a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Kent County and Michigan...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Class of 2021 has ‘test-optional’ choice when applying for college

Most schools in the state of Michigan have become SAT/ACT-optional for the Class of 2021 for admission purposes. There are, however, pros and cons for students...

Schools in nine districts announce closures as COVID cases spike

New temporary school building closures were announced by nine school districts in Kent ISD this week, as schools contend with a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Kent County and Michigan...

Musical prodigy, international performer, fourth-grader

When Cameron Renshaw was in kindergarten he kept asking his mom, Tina Renshaw, about the cello in her closet...
- Sponsorship -


Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...


Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You LiveWGVU