Eight schools across Maryland were designated by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan with a National Blue Ribbon Award last week, including a private Calvert County school.
Cardinal Hickey Academy, a Catholic K-8 school in Owings, was among the public and private elementary, middle and high schools honored, indicating either high achieving or notable improvements in closing the achievement gap.
The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program was founded in 1982 to recognize the nation’s top schools based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps. Schools cannot apply for the National Blue Ribbon School Program until they have been selected by the Maryland State Department of Education based on a number of criteria, including that the performance for all students in reading and math must be in the top 15 percent of all schools in the state in the most recent year tested, and the nominated school should not have received the distinction within the last five years.
“I’m just very proud of being the principal of a National Blue Ribbon school,” Jennifer Griffith, principal of Cardinal Hickey, said of the school’s announcement. “Really all the glory goes to the staff and to the students.”
Griffith said the school celebrated the announcement with a special Mass on Tuesday with Bishop Martin D. Holly, who came out from the Archdiocese of Washington. Griffith made an announcement to the students with the unfolding of a banner and the students celebrated with blue cupcakes at a small reception with parents.
“There was a lot of cheering,” Griffith said of the students’ reaction. “When you’re paying a lot of money to send your child to a nonpublic school … it’s good to know you’re getting what you’re paying for. We had a lot of happy parents about that. Our parents are very, very supportive of the school.”
Griffith said though the school cannot apply again for another five years, the goal is to keep the students’ scores in the top 15 percent and reapply. Regardless, the distinction will stay with Cardinal Hickey Academy for this school year.
“Once you are named a blue ribbon school, you’re always a blue ribbon school,” Griffith said. “We always have to have the year the award was given to us.”
In the county’s history, a number of public schools have received the designation. Four Calvert County public schools have received the distinction since 1982.
Mt. Harmony Elementary School was awarded during the 1985-1986 school year; Plum Point Elementary School was awarded in the 1996-1997 school year; Plum Point Middle School was recognized during the 1999-2000 school year; and Northern Middle School was recognized in 2010.
Of the eight schools chosen this year, the two non-public schools were both Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Washington.
Both of Maryland’s U.S. senators, Barbara A. Mikulski (D) and Ben Cardin (D), and Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) released statements on the school’s success.
“Schools succeed when administrators, teachers, students and parents all work together toward the common goal of providing a high-quality education experience to our children,” Cardin said in a statement.
“All of the teachers, students, staff, and parents at Cardinal Hickey Academy should be extremely proud of this recognition and the work they are doing to prepare our Fifth District future leaders to succeed,” Hoyer said in a statement.
The school will be presented an engraved plaque and program flag with the official seal, which signifies its status and the year of its award, during an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., in November.
“It’s an effort of the staff, students and families, and all the kudos go to those folks,” Griffith said.