2016-11-25 / Front Page

Senators salute Sea Road School

Elementary school earns Blue Ribbon School of Excellence status
By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

Sen. Susan Collins congratulates students and staff at Sea Road Elementary School on their recent recognition as a federal Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, during a Friday, Nov. 18 assembly. (Duke Harrington photo) Sen. Susan Collins congratulates students and staff at Sea Road Elementary School on their recent recognition as a federal Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, during a Friday, Nov. 18 assembly. (Duke Harrington photo) KENNEBUNK — Sea Road Elementary School in Kennebunk must be doing something right. After all, as Sen. Angus King told students and staffers there during a school assembly last week, Maine’s two U.S. senators are almost never in the same place, at the same time.

“We’re together in Washington [D.C.] a lot,” King said, referencing his Republican counterpart, Susan Collins. “But in Maine we are traveling all over the state all the time. It’s very difficult to get us both in the same room at the same time. So, it’s a real tribute to you that both of us are here and it’s an indication of how important we think what you’ve accomplished is.”

King and Collins were at Sea Road on Friday, Nov. 18, to help celebrate the school’s recent recognition as a 2016 National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence award winner.

“You guys are wicked cool,” King told the students, stressing, “This is a big deal.”

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,” Sea Road School Principal Stephen Marquis said. “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.”

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 school to win the National Blue Ribbon Award for 2016 are Falmouth Middle School and Reeds Brook Middle School in Hampden.

The honor comes with an extra feather in the cap for RSU 21.

The Blue Rubbon award 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.

“I suspect there are very few [school districts] across the United States where there have been two Blue Ribbon winners,” Collins told the assembled students. “So, that says a lot about how much your whole community cares about working together for a good education for all of you.”

But the accolades do not stop there. Close on the heels of the October announcement that the school had made the final cut for recognition by the federal Department of Education, came word that Marquis also was to be feted when he and other RSU 21 officials picked up the award in the nation’s capitol, Nov. 7. Marquis was one of just eight administrators from this year’s crop of 329 Blue Ribbon Award of Merit schools to receive the 2016 Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding School Leadership.

“Dr. Marquis embodies the idea that you can’t be what you can’t see, giving his staff and all of the students at Sea Road a model to follow,” said school board Chairman MaryBeth Luce, of Arundel. “We are fortunate, to say the least, to have a principal of Dr. Marquis’ caliber in RSU 21. His dedication to the individual success of every student and development of his entire staff shows through in every aspect of Sea Road School.”

The standing ovation for Marquis was one of several spontaneous bursts of applause during the 40-minute assembly, which concluded with students singing the 2014 American Authors song, “Best Day of My Life.”

Among the dignitaries to speak was state Senator Ron Collins of Wells, whose district includes Kennebunk. He read from a sentiment adopted by the Maine State Legislature congratulating the Sea Road staff and student body.

Susan Collins also quoted from a statement she read into the Congressional Record in honor of SRS, telling students at the assembly, “You are part of the permanent history of the United States of American kept in the Library of Congress.”

During his talk, King reviewed for students “the four Ps” he said made the Blue Ribbon award possible — planning, partnering, perseverance, and passion.

On the point of perseverance, Susan Collins recalled that, having come from Caribou, “a small town almost as far from Kennebunk as it’s possible to get and still be in Maine,” she actually lost her first foray into politics. In that contest, the 1994 gubernatorial race, Collins lost to King, who, guessing the moral of the story would come around to him, had his face buried in his hands even before she mentioned the decades-old contest.

But in light of the divisive mood across Maine and the nation following the recent presidential election, Susan Collins said there was an even more important lesson in her 1994 loss than that she picked herself up and carried on to eventual success.

The 1994 race, she said, shows that people do not have to remain acrimonious adversaries after the ballots are counted.

“The reason I tell you that story is because sometimes the person who is your rival one day turns out to be your friend and your partner the next day,” Susan Collins said. “I think it’s really important in life to remember that you can disagree with someone, even have a fight, and then you can be friends and work together. And that’s what happened with Angus King and me. We were rivals one day and now we are trusted friends who work together for the great state of Maine.”

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

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