2016-10-07 / Front Page

Sea Road School saluted

By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

John King Jr., Secretary of the federal Department of Education, announces to students at Sea Road Elementary School in Kennebunk during a Sept. 28 assembly that the school is a National Blue Ribbon Award recipient. (Courtesy photo) John King Jr., Secretary of the federal Department of Education, announces to students at Sea Road Elementary School in Kennebunk during a Sept. 28 assembly that the school is a National Blue Ribbon Award recipient. (Courtesy photo) KENNEBUNK — Sea Road Elementary School in Kennebunk has been named a 2016 National Blue Ribbon School Award winner, putting it in a league with fewer than 330 schools nationwide.

The National Blue Ribbon Schools program recognizes public and private schools that are either high-performing or have improved student achievement year-to-year by significant levels.

The award measures overall performance, as well as progress on closing achievement gaps of targeted subgroups, such as special education students and those deemed to come from low-income homes.

“I’m just really thrilled for our whole school community,” said Sea Road School principal Stephen Marquis, on Monday. “The level of excitement on the part of our staff, the acknowledgement of their hard work, from parents, former parents, and all community members, has been really heartwarming. Also, the fact that our students are so excited about being recognized for their hard work, it’s really inspirational. It’s really been a team effort. It’s a very hard award to even be nominated for, but to then be ultimately awarded, we’re really excited as a whole school community.”

Marquis noted that of 597 eligible schools in Maine, just four met all 12 nominating criteria this year. Maine could forward just three names to the feds, however, and chose Sea Road School in that lot. In making the final cut, Sea Road joins just 279 public and 50 private schools to merit the prestigious honor this year.

The other two schools Maine schools to win the National Blue Ribbon Award for 2016 are Falmouth Middle School and Reeds Brook Middle School in Hampden.

Sea Road Principal Dr. Stephen Marquis, classroom teacher Margaret Parkhurst, and RSU 21 Superintendent Dr. Kathryn Hawes will pick up the prize on behalf of all Sea Road students and staffers at a two-day awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. Nov. 7-8.

“I’m really proud of Steve [Marquis] and the staff and students at Sea Road, as well as our whole school community,” Hawes said. “This is the highest honor that a school can achieve and it is one that involves a very thorough and substantial vetting process. It really validates the work that is done here every day.”

The award itself dates to 1982. Kennebunk High School won the award that inaugural year, and again in 1983, as well as in 1990 and 1991. The former Park Street School won in 1985 and 1986.

However, the award rules changed 18 years ago to prevent schools from nominating themselves. Since the requirement for third-party nominations, just 16 schools in Maine have gone on to win national recognition, including Kennebunkport Consolidated School in 2010.

RSU 21 is now the first school district in Maine since the 2004 rules change to have two schools named as National Blue Ribbon Award winners.

Sea Road was notified of its nomination in February. But as Marquis noted at the time, the school has to keep up test scores to make the grade.

“It’s a two-stage vetting process,” he said. “Ultimately, once we clear all those [review] hurdles, we actually had to preform extremely well once again on our state tests in the spring. And even then we had to have three really high years [of test scores] before that. So, you can’t be a one-hit wonder.”

“This is truly is a tribute to the dedication of our staff as they work to help every student achieve their highest potential, to the commitment of our students to their own learning, and to the partnership we have with our parents here at Sea Road,” Marquis said. “But it also is a direct result of what I believe is a commitment to quality education throughout the district. I firmly believe any of our schools within the district are qualified for this award, we just so happened to get nominated this time around.”

John King Jr., secretary of the federal department of education announced the award via video during a school assembly Sept. 28. That drew kudos the following day from U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King.

“Educators across Maine work tirelessly to help build a brighter future for our state, and these three Blue Ribbon schools are shining examples of that positive impact,” they said, in a joint statement. “Education is a collective effort, and these awards are well deserved by the teachers, administrators, families, and students who all make Falmouth Middle School, Reeds Brook Middle School, and Sea Road School fantastic places to learn and grow.

“We are proud of Maine’s 2016 Blue Ribbon schools and congratulate them on earning this recognition.”

On Nov. 18, Collins will appear at Sea Road School to present a formal congressional congratulatory letter.

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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