The joint program between two local elementary schools has been recognized as being at the head of the class by the federal Department of Education.
State College’s Lemont and Houserville elementary schools, jointly helmed by Principal Todd Dishong, were announced together as National Blue Ribbon Schools last week.
“National Blue Ribbon Schools are active demonstrations of preparing every child for a bright future,” U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos said in a statement. “You are visionaries, innovators and leaders. You have much to teach us: Some of you personalize student learning, others engage parents and communities in the work and life of your local schools and still others develop strong and forward-thinking leaders from among your teaching staff.”
There were 342 schools recognized. In Pennsylvania, 11 elementary schools made the list. The Lemont-Houserville program was one of those, only six of which were public schools. The other five were Catholic schools in the greater Philadelphia area.
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“I’m really happy for our teachers and our kids and our families and our community,” Dishong said. “It’s a testament really to our whole district. We’re not like a status quo. We’re always looking to grow and improve and not just settle. We sharpen each other, keeping kids at the center of it all.”
Lemont-Houserville was not just the only Centre County school program to be honored, it was also the only school — elementary or secondary — in the 814 area code to make the list.
“I think it’s quite an accomplishment to be nominated for Blue Ribbon status. This is a reflection of the hard work of students, staff and families, who are dedicated to learning at high levels. We’re very proud of the Houserville-Lemont community,” said State College Area School District Assistant Superintendent Vernon Bock in a press release.
The joint program was nominated as an Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing School, meaning it was a Pennsylvania leader in “closing achievement gaps between a school’s subgroups and all students over the past five years.”
According to recently released information, the program had 83.9 percent of its students post advanced or proficient scores on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment reading tests, and 68.6 percent in that range for math. State averages are 61.1 percent for reading and 42.6 percent for math.
“ ‘Get Grit — Don’t Quit’ is the Lemont-Houserville slogan, where we promote perseverance and a ‘stickto-it-tiveness’ attitude through a growth mindset. Students know growth occurs through grappling and wrestling with challenging learning and situations in school and life,” the school’s application says.
The two schools serve about 350 students between them. Dishong pointed out the importance of not just the academics, but parent, community and staff cooperation.
“A true team approach is taken at Lemont-Houserville amongst faculty, staff and administration regarding student growth and professional learning,” the application said.
The two sister schools will become one with a new name in the future as the district pursues plans to build a new facility to accommodate both populations.