Students and staff at Forestbrook Elementary School were feeling the blues on Monday, not in sadness but in celebration of the school’s designation as a 2012 National Blue Ribbon School.
Forestbrook was named one of five S.C. schools that won the honor this year. The Blue Ribbon School award is given to schools of excellence that are either academically superior or that demonstrate dramatic gains in student achievement.
“Less than 1 percent of schools across the nation are Blue Ribbon Schools, and it just reaffirms that we’re doing great things,” said Principal Johnny Calder. “We don’t want to be a good school, we want to be a great school, and this says we’re doing things really, really well.”
Calder said the school began celebrating Friday after the announcement, when music was turned on, and everyone took to the hallways where dancing and singing ensued. On Monday, he said he was up before the sun to decorate the school for more festivities. Blue balloons, blue ribbons and banners were hung around the building, and strains of Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration” could be heard inside and outside the school walls.
This is not the first Blue Ribbon win for Forestbrook, which took the award in 2001 and 2003, as well. Calder said schools could be self-nominated when Forestbrook won in 2001, after already having won the Palmetto’s Finest award. The rules changed in 2003, and now schools are nominated by the State Department of Education’s chief academic officer, who looks at each school to ensure they meet the top criteria.
“The fact that this school is a multiple award winner shows the excellence that has been made over time,” said Horry County Schools Superintendent Cindy Elsberry, who stopped by the school at lunchtime to offer her congratulations. “It is hard to sustain, and it’s not without a lot of work and effort from the faculty, staff and the community – they feel ownership here.”
Assistant Principal Sherri Oskin, who was sporting different shades of blue nail polish on her fingers and toes to complement her blue shirt, said the award validates the school’s hard work and agreed that the school enjoys a lot of family involvement that contributes to its success.
“We are so family-oriented here,” said Oskin, whose daughter also is a student at the school, “and I feel it as a parent, as well as a staff member. There’ll be parents in the courtyard waiting to pick up their kids, and today, we have some grandparents here eating lunch with their grandchildren. It all carries over to make us successful. … We work as a team, and we try to get students to do the same thing.”
Oskin was speaking from the cafeteria, which was a sea of blue in every direction, with students in blue necklaces, blue ribbons and blue socks, as well as blue tongues, stained from the school’s offerings of cake with blue icing and blue applesauce.
Fourth-grader Trey Heath, 9, stood up from his table to show that he had thought out his ensemble from head to toe, including a cap that featured colorful, fake dreadlocks hanging down. He explained what winning the award meant to him.
“It means I’m in a good school, and I’m getting a good education,” he said.
Elsewhere in the school, younger students were showing their spirit. First-grader Jamison Hatcher, 7, came to school with half of his face painted in a blue hue, and he gave his mother credit for helping him get ready. Kindergarteners in Debbie McCrary’s class used their art time to add to what they were wearing. They made blue capes, which they donned before marching to the cafeteria to show them off to the older kids.
Oskin said Forestbrook is in a fabulous school cluster, and the win confirms there are a lot of good things happening in public schools.
“We all want the kids to be successful,” she said. “There are a lot of good things in so many schools. We should all be celebrated.”
Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.