Fountain Green Elementary School students received the ultimate piece of good news during their monthly good news assembly Tuesday afternoon.
"The 2015 National Blue Ribbon Schools were announced today and guess what? We're one of them!" Principal Alison Donnelly proudly proclaimed as a roar of cheer went up among the nearly 500 students gathered in the school auditorium. "It's because of the hard work of the students, teachers and their parents."
The school, on Route 543 south of Route 22, will be awash in blue Wednesday, as students wear blue to celebrate the honor.
"We want you to always be learning because that's what made us a National Blue Ribbon School," Donnelly said.
Fountain Green is one of 335 schools in the nation to receive this prestigious distinction based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups, according to a news release from Harford County Public Schools. These schools demonstrate that all students can achieve at high levels.
Donnelly and her staff got the news Tuesday morning through a video message from U.S. Education Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. All faculty and staff were notified by email, but the students did not learn of the honor until Tuesday's assembly.
Fountain Green Elementary is being recognized in the "Exemplary High Performing" category, in which schools named are among their state's highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests, according to the release.
Prior to the assembly, Donnelly said the faculty and staff "are incredibly excited." She said a group of teachers and school staffers worked on the application to the U.S. Department of Education for the national award, which was submitted in March.
"It's recognition of a lot of hard work that teachers and students have been doing over many, many years, so we're thrilled that the teachers and students received the award, and parents too," she said.
The principal noted "parents play a huge part in educating children, and we greatly appreciate the partnership we have with them."
According to the HCPS release, Fountain Green Elementary has an impressive record of student achievement; a very active and supportive Parent Teacher Association and school community.
The school also offers a variety of enrichment programs for students, such as the Lego Club, the computer club and art clubs.
The school's teachers pride themselves on using best practices, innovative instruction, and multiple forms of technology in each class, the news release states. FGES was previously named a Maryland Character Education School of the Year.
The good news assemblies are held each month. Donnelly said they include announcements about "good news" in the school, student recognitions for good behavior and character education.
A different aspect of good character is discussed each month – September's theme is "Falcon respect," Donnelly said.
"As we always say, we're educating the whole child," Donnelly continued. "We're not just educating for academics, we need to tie in good character and support of each other."
Six other Maryland elementary schools, four public and two private, also received National Blue Ribbon School honors this year, as did Smithsburg High School in Washington County, according to the U.S. Department of Education website.
"The tireless dedication of the students, teachers, parents, administrators and community was tantamount in Fountain Green Elementary School receiving National Blue Ribbon recognition for extraordinarily high levels of achievement," HCPS Superintendent Barbara P. Canavan said. "Fountain Green Elementary continues to exceed the educational needs of each of their students, serving as an outstanding example of public education at its best."
Fountain Green Elementary is the first National Blue Ribbon School in the Harford County public school system since Ring Factory Elementary, also near Bel Air, earned the title in 2012.
Other HCPS Blue Ribbon Schools include Hickory Elementary – Maryland and National – 2008; Bel Air Middle – Maryland and National – 2000; Joppatowne High – Maryland – 2000; North Harford Middle – Maryland and National – 1996; Jarrettsville Elementary – Maryland – 1992; and Havre de Grace High – Maryland and National – 1990.
St. Margaret School, a private school in Bel Air, received National Blue Ribbon School honors in 2013.
Fountain Green Elementary will be honored at a ceremony Nov. 9-10 in Washington, D.C. In addition to the ceremony in Washington D.C., where each school receives a plaque and flag signifying their National Blue Ribbon status.