While Towson High School principal Jane Barranger was in Washington Nov. 14 and 15 accepting the school's National Blue Ribbon Award, her school — and everything about it that made it worthy of the designation — kept building on its achievement of maintaining the school's excellence both in and out of the classroom.
Barranger wouldn't have it any other way.
"I'm very proud, very thankful, because it's validation that we're on the right track," Barranger said. "It certainly is an honor, but there's tomorrow.
"The stakes are higher and the expectations are greater. It certainly validates, but it's a challenge to maintain that high standard."
And when the principal refers to the standard that led to the school's blue ribbon award, she's referring to more than her students' 98-percent proficiency in math and 99-percent proficiency in English on the Maryland School Assesment tests.
Barranger recognizes that her students' growth and development outside the classroom are just as important as academic success in an environment that offers a wide array of opportunities.
"I think art, music, drama, athletics, robotics… you need a wide range for students to develop their creativity outside the classroom," Barranger said. "The goal is to have something for every student to be engaged in."
"Every single day, you have to work on that, and make sure students are engaged."
When schools are measured by standards outside of the classroom, its athletic programs are invariably the stick by which they're judged.
And just hours before their regional final win over C. Milton Wright Nov. 11, senior volleyball players Kelly Lacy and Emily Lansinger spoke of the relationship between classroom and athletic success.
"After practice, you have to get your work done," said Lansinger, whose Generals hope to claim a second consecutive state title Nov. 18. "I'm also more focused on getting better grades during the season."
Coach and alumnus Emily Berman said that the team, and athletics in general, brings the entire school together, whether students are playing, managing or supporting the team on the court.
Lacy and Lansinger said that the student body and administrators lend their support in every way.
"Our teachers always know when we have games and they'll wish us luck during class," she said. "It's good to hear that."
On Friday, Barringer, a frequent sight at many of the school's athletic contests, made the trip to Bel Air to watch the girls compete.
But just as the faculty and administrators are always present at the games, players are present and prepared for their classes, regardless of other commitments.
The day after the team's county championship win over archrival Dulaney High, two players had oral presentations in Joe Kimball's English class.
The match was not allowed to be used as an excuse to miss the assignment.
"They were ready to go," Kimball said. "I've been at schools where athletics were the motivating factor, but here, kids are really concerned about school as well."