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National Blue Ribbon awards for 4 local schools

Krystle Wagner • Oct 2, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Four Tri-Cities-area elementary schools are among 349 across the country to be recognized as 2018 National Blue Ribbon Schools.

The Grand Haven district’s Lake Hills and Rosy Mound elementary schools and Spring Lake’s Holmes and Jeffers elementary schools were named to the national list Monday.

The four local schools were nominated in the Exemplary High-Performing Schools category. Schools in that category are among the highest-performing schools in their state, as measured by state assessments or nationally normalized tests, according to a press release.

Having four of the 13 Michigan schools recognized in 2018 is “amazing,” said Grand Haven Area Public Schools Superintendent Andy Ingall. Ingall said he’s proud of the work happening across Northwest Ottawa County.

Grand Haven’s Griffin Elementary School was named a National Blue Ribbon School in 2016. Ingall said to have three schools within three years on the list speaks to the continuous hard work the district’s staff puts in to improve and help their students.

“The coveted National Blue Ribbon Schools award affirms the hard work of the talented educators at Holmes and Jeffers,” Spring Lake Public Schools Superintendent Dennis Furton said. “At the same time, we cannot help but appreciate that these awards would not be possible if not for the strong support we receive from Spring Lake families and our community.”

Holmes Principal Sandra Smits said they are humbled by the award and having both Spring Lake elementary schools recognized speaks volumes to the parent support, community involvement and the investment the district puts into children.

“The staff members at Holmes and Jeffers have a commitment to do what it takes to meet the needs of all students, and it is exciting that they can be celebrated with this honor,” she said.

Jeffers Principal Shelley Peets said educators work diligently to provide effective instruction proven to get results.

“The work of a teacher is not always easy, but in the end it is always worth it to see our students achieving at such high levels,” she said. “We maintain a mindset that we can always improve upon our instruction and we never settle where we are.”

Scott Ely, director of curriculum for the Spring Lake district, commended staff and the Spring Lake Schools Foundation’s partnership. He said they also owe a “thank you” to the foundation for helping secure training and resources to help educators deliver “a world-class education” to students.

“Our elementary teams have been intensely committed to offering our students the highest level of instruction, especially in the area of literacy and math,” Ely said. “The teachers, principals and literacy coach have blended hard work with smart work to create a system that maximizes student learning.”

While Rosy Mound and Lake Hills were both recognized as Exemplary High-Performing Schools, Ingall noted each school has a different story.

Within the past five years, Lake Hills has improved from being one of the lowest-performing schools in Michigan to closing the achievement gap and being recognized as high performing. Ingall said it’s “remarkable.”

Meanwhile, Rosy Mound has traditionally performed at a high level.

Lake Hills Principal Jason Lawson said he’s humbled by the recognition because he said he knows how hard every school works. At Lake Hills, staff members are committed to the school’s motto of “Whatever It Takes,” he said.

“One thing I always say is, kids might get under your skin, they’re going to have bad days, but we’re going to continue to love them,” Lawson said. “We’re going to continue to support them, and we’re going to continue to give them what they need each and every day. I think the whole Lake Hills staff has embraced that and our families have embraced that philosophy.”

Rosy Mound Principal Kevin Blanding said he couldn’t be prouder of the school and community.

“Our Blue Ribbon is due to the individual work of every member of our learning community — parent, staff and students,” he said. “And, more importantly, it is the result of all members working together for the betterment of all.”

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