School's efforts honored by state

Mount Airy Middle celebrates earning blue-ribbon status

Carroll County

November 16, 2001|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

A full day after learning that her school was awarded a Blue Ribbon of Excellence, Principal Virginia Ashmore of Mount Airy Middle was "still just floating."

Officials at the Maryland State Department of Education had summoned Ashmore, her staff and representatives of eight other Maryland middle and high schools to Baltimore on Tuesday, supposedly to talk about the programs of the schools that were finalists for the annual Blue Ribbon awards.

"We went down armed with all of our papers and accumulated data," Ashmore recalled. "But then this door opened and [State School Superintendent] Nancy Grasmick came out and told us we were all winners. I had a chill go right up my spine and several of my staff members got teary. It was very special."

Grasmick's office officially announced the awards yesterday morning, naming Mount Airy Middle School among the nine public middle and high schools to receive the Blue Ribbon Award.

Selection demonstrates high achievement in student performance, instruction, parent and community involvement and professional development.

Applications are judged by a panel of educators and community leaders, and the selections alternate each year between elementary and secondary schools.

On the way back to Carroll County on Tuesday, Ashmore stopped to get disposable champagne glasses, ginger ale and blue ribbon. She and the staff members who accompanied her to Baltimore quickly made blue-ribbon pins and called the school's faculty to the media center for an announcement.

"We told them the good news after school," Ashmore said, still giddy from the announcement, "and celebrated with our ginger ale."

Yesterday's morning announcements included dictionary definitions of blue ribbon - "an honor, distinction or award gained for preeminence in some field," according to Webster - and congratulations to pupils.

"We told them that we're a Blue Ribbon school because they're Blue Ribbon students," Ashmore said. "I'm not really sure they totally understand it, but hopefully we'll be able to get some of the children involved in some of the things that happen because of the award so that they will see."

Festivities will include appearances before the Maryland State Board of Education in December and the Maryland General Assembly in March and a gala dinner in April.

Each school also receives a commemorative flag and a $1,000 cash reward, and its application will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education as a candidate for National Blue Ribbon status.

"We are very proud that Mount Airy is being recognized for their achievements," interim Carroll schools Superintendent Charles I. Ecker said. "The administration and staff have worked hard and are very deserving of this honor."

Mount Airy Middle was honored, in part, because of its program to incorporate reading and writing in every content area and its efforts to make children accountable for their learning.

"It's a reward for a tremendous amount of hard work," Ashmore said. "This school is really very fortunate to have the total package. We have a very supportive community, parents who value education and staff in this building who are tireless in looking for ways to do things with kids that are different.

"So this is a reward for the tremendous amount of day-to-day work."

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