Bushy Park Elementary School - which boasts some of the county's highest test scores and routinely garners praise from parents, pupils and staff members - didn't become top notch by accident.
Principal Nancy Kalin attributes the school's success to lots of work: hard work by the pupils, teamwork by the staff members and administrators.
That work was recognized yesterday by Sens. Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski, who presented Kalin and her small suburban school with the prestigious Senate Productivity Award.
The award honors leading state organizations in the areas of manufacturing, service, health care, education and in the public and nonprofit sectors. Administered through the University of Maryland Center for Quality and Productivity, the award represents the highest honor from the state for commitment to quality, productivity and performance excellence.
Bushy Park Elementary is the first school to be given the award since its inception in 1983, said Tom Tuttle, the center's director.
Past recipients include AlliedSignal Corp., University of Maryland Medical Center and the U.S. Coast Guard.
"I am pretty excited," Kalin said after receiving the gold medal at the Johns Hopkins University's Kossiakoff Center yesterday afternoon. "It's been a wonderful criteria to work with."
The criteria to which she refers are the Malcolm Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, a management approach under which the Glenwood school has been operating for two years.
In short, the approach focuses on shared visions and mission statements that help align the people and processes in an organization under one goal.
For Bushy Park, that goal was simple, Kalin said: that all diploma-bound pupils would be on or above grade level as measured by the county's curriculum.
Once teachers, specialists and pupils were aware of the goal, the moon, the stars and the planets started to align, as well, Kalin said.
Teachers began sharing strengths, unnecessary activities or programs were eliminated and anything that got in the way of the goal was considered a barrier and tossed aside.
For example, teachers noticed that pupils were being pulled out of reading and math classes for programs such as band and chorus. The schedules were redone to be sure that wouldn't happen.
"We work under the no-excuses motto," Kalin said. "We change what we do in order to make the kids successful."
As a result, Kalin said, standardized test scores have gone up. More pupils at the school are testing into the school's gifted and talented program. Special education pupils are showing increases in achievement, and more pupils on grade level are being promoted.
"This truly is a result of teamwork, truly," Kalin said. "I may be directing the boat, but everybody has a paddle, and we're all moving in the same direction."
Superintendent John R. O'Rourke is familiar with the Baldrige Criteria. Pittsford-Central School District in New York, where he was chief until June, operated under the formula and won numerous awards because of it. O'Rourke was also judge for the New York version of the award.
"So I know this is a very demanding process. The rigor is just incredible," O'Rourke said. "In every respect, everybody associated with this is to be admired, and she [Kalin] in particular for providing the leadership."