By Christina Leslie | Correspondent
Calling it “an extraordinary accomplishment for the Diocese,” Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., congratulated five Catholic schools of the Diocese of Trenton that received word Oct 1 that they had achieved the coveted “2018 National Blue Ribbon Schools” designation from the U.S. Department of Education.
St. Catharine, Spring Lake, Robert Dougherty, principal; St. Dominic, Brick, Carol Bathmann, principal; St. James, Red Bank, JoAnn Giordano, principal; St. Jerome, West Long Branch, Filippini Sister Angelina Pelliccia, principal, and St. Leo the Great, Lincroft, Neil Begley, principal, each received word around 1 p.m.
“You are amazing!” Bishop O’Connell wrote in his letter of congratulations, and extended congratulations to diocesan Schools superintendent JoAnn Tier, Vicar for Catholic Education Franciscan Father Gabriel Zeis, and their colleagues in the Office of Catholic Education for the national recognition. The Bishop also recognized the administrations, pastors, parish priests, faculties and staff of the five schools honored this year, and issued a personal message to the Catholic families of the Diocese.
“To our parents who sacrifice so much to entrust their children to our Catholic schools and to our incredible Catholic school students, thank you for your hard work and dedication,” Bishop O’Connell wrote. “You are the best! ‘Catholic schools have it all!’”
Expressing feeling of elation and pride, Tier said, “With a maximum of 50 nonpublic schools receiving this recognition, we are delighted that 10 percent of the schools are in the Diocese of Trenton.”
In a live video message from U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, the five Diocese of Trenton schools were announced, along with 344 others from across the nation, for their “overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.”
“I’m pleased to celebrate with you as your school is named a National Blue Ribbon School,” DeVos said in her message to the honorees. “We recognize and honor your important work in preparing students for successful careers and meaningful lives. Congratulations on your students’ accomplishments and for your extraordinary commitment to meeting their unique needs.”
Now in its 36th year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed recognition on more than 8,800 schools. On Nov. 7-8, Secretary DeVos and the Department of Education will celebrate with 300 public and 49 private school honorees at an awards ceremony in Washington.
All schools were honored in one of two performance categories, based on all student scores, subgroup student scores and graduation rates. “Exemplary High Performing Schools” are among their state’s highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests, while “Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools” are among their state’s highest performing schools in closing achievement gaps between a school’s student groups and all students over the past five years.
National Blue Ribbon School nominations are issued from the top education official in all states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Department of Defense Education Activity and the Bureau of Indian Education. Private schools, such as those from the Diocese, are nominated by The Council for American Private Education (CAPE).