A Harford County middle school and high schools in Baltimore City and Carroll County have been recognized by state officials for excellence in academic and extracurricular activities.
The Blue Ribbon School of Excellence awards -- announced by the State Department of Education Thursday -- went to Bel Air Middle School, Baltimore City College and South Carroll High School, as well as six other Maryland high schools and a middle school. The award recognizes achievement in every facet of school life, from curriculum to community service.
"We're really excited," said Bel Air Middle School principal Nancy Owen. "We applied as a way to validate the programs that we have here."
Officials said each winning school will receive $1,000 and a flag of excellence. Each school will be considered for distinction as a national blue ribbon school.
Darla Strouse, state director and national liaison for the Blue Ribbon Schools program, said competing schools must complete a rigorous application process which includes extensive documentation of school achievements.
About 100 Maryland schools applied this year. That number was pared to 34, and 10 winners were selected, Strouse said.
"In the application, they have to be very specific in showing programs that exemplify leadership, professional development, parent and community involvement, and other areas of achievement," she said.
In addition to the three Baltimore-area schools, state officials also selected three high schools in Montgomery County, one each in Frederick, Washington and Worcester counties, and a middle school in Calvert County.
Joe Wilson, principal of City College, said his school was merely following its motto: "Honor to those who earn it."
"We send 90 to 95 percent of our students to post-secondary institutions," Wilson said. "The students are taking it in stride. Their attitude is, 'Yes, we work hard here so why shouldn't our collective academic performance get extra notice?' "
South Carroll High Principal David T. Booz said the award validates the hard work put into programs such as a morning tutorial and writing programs for students.
"We've worked really hard to get our school to the place we want it to be," Booz said. "We have worked to make it student-centered and at the same time challenging."
All the schools will be recognized by the State Department of Education on Dec. 8 and at a dinner on April 27.