THE BALTIMORE School for the Arts has has been named a winner in this year's Blue Ribbon Schools Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education.
TTC The school is the only Baltimore city school to receive the honor, one of six in the state and one of 222 public and private secondary schools nationwide.
"Needless to say, we are thrilled," said Leslie Seyffert, dean of art administration at the school.
The Blue Ribbon Schools Program was established nine years ago to give national recognition to schools that are unusually effective in meeting local, state and national goals and in educating their students. Public and private schools across the nation are eligible to apply. This year's judging favored schools specializing in geography, history and the arts.
Schools winning the Blue Ribbon recognition are invited to send three representatives to Washington, D.C., later this year, where they will get a personalized plaque and a flag of excellence.
The Baltimore School for the Arts opened 11 years ago and since then has graduated many up-and-coming performers, including Antonio Hart, a saxophone player who has just signed with RCA Records and is set to release his own record; and Jada Pinkett, an actress who has appeared on CBS' "The Trials of Rosie O'Neill," ABC's "Doogie Howser, M.D." and Fox's "21 Jump Street."
Two former students are dancing with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and a number of others are associated with national dance companies.
One of this year's 53 graduates, Keyontia R. Hawkins, 17, will sing two solo arias Monday at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington. Hawkins also has the distinction of being one of 20 American high school students named a Presidential Scholar in the Arts, considered to be the nation's highest honor for graduating seniors. She has been accepted to attend the Juilliard School in New York this fall.
"We have been working seriously to have a good school and are trying to do all those things that would make a good environment for the students and faculty," said David Simon, the school's director. "To win this award is an affirmation of our efforts."
More than 300 students attend the school, which admits 100 new students each year after they pass an audition.
"What we're working with is raw talent," said Simon. "We hone this raw talent."
Other state high schools winning the award are Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Prince George's County; Richard Montgomery High School and Winston Churchill High School, both in Montgomery County; Havre de Grace High School in Harford County; and Gov. Thomas Johnson High School in Frederick County.
Westland Middle School in Prince George's County and Perryville Middle School in Cecil County also won Blue Ribbon recognition as outstanding middle schools.
The Baltimore School for the Arts applied for the award in October at the encouragement of the state Education Department. School administrators sent in a 32-page application that asked such questions as the number of teachers who had left the school in the past five years and the attendance rate of students.
"What it required was the team effort of all the different parts of our school," said Simon. "The application was literally a book."
One evaluator wrote that the Baltimore School for the Arts "is a fantastic school. From the time you enter the building and see the colorful banners hanging from the wall, you see the energy and the excitement that exist, and you know that you have a special place."
The Blue Ribbon program recognizes schools particularly strong leadership, teaching environment, parent and community support and evidence of student achievement, among other qualities.
Lamar Alexander, U.S. Secretary of Education, described the Blue Ribbon winners as those schools having "well-trained staffs providing creative instruction in communities that care about education."