BLADES — Monday was a banner day in the Seaford School District — for Blades Elementary in particular.
The district accounts for three of 14 schools across the state being recognized for their English-learner students’ growth, and the leader of that pack is Blades Elementary, which also has garnered special kudos as a 2021 National Elementary and Secondary Education Act Distinguished School for the extraordinary success of its students.
This year, Delaware looked specifically at the progress of English learners in determining eligibility for the national recognition.
“And Blades knocked it out of the park,” said Delaware Department of Education Secretary Dr. Susan Bunting.
ESEA state administrators have been selecting examples of superior, federally funded school programs for national acknowledgment through the Distinguished Schools program since 1996.
Blades, a K-2 school, is being honored as a “Recognition School for Excellence in Serving Special Populations” for the growth toward English-language proficiency its English learners made during the 2020-21 year.
“Blades feels very strongly that we have a sense of urgency to make sure that all of our students are readers when they leave our building,” said Principal Kirsten Jennette. “It was a struggle last year during a global pandemic, but our staff and our community really rallied together.”
Getting students back in the classrooms was key.
“We brought students into the schools. We were the first school district in the state that had students in the building. Our administrative team at the district level and principals felt very strongly that our students needed to be in school. While they were here, our teachers went above and beyond in doing everything we could to minimize the learning loss for students,” Ms. Jennette said.
“By the time we were in March of (2021), we had most of our students back in the building four days a week. So we really … were able to continue to move forward and bridge those gaps in learning for our students.”
Dr. Bunting relayed her pride in Blades Elementary.
“The Blades team should be especially proud to have this honor because they earned this for last year’s work,” she said. “Despite the pandemic that forced school buildings and elsewhere to close or minimally open, and to pivot to the hybrid or the remote-learning situation, this school did not allow any of those challenges to be excuses. They just plowed ahead, and they found a way to teach their students and to enable them actually to excel.”
The 2021 Distinguished Schools will be honored Feb. 16-19 at the 2022 National ESEA Hybrid Conference, both online and in person in New Orleans.
Gov. John Carney joined Dr. Bunting in a banner presentation Monday morning at the school. He recognized the team effort, from district administration and the board of education to the boots on the ground — school, staff and students.
“Blades has the national recognition because they are No. 1. That speaks a lot for all of you. It speaks a lot for the board,” said Gov. Carney. “We know that this kind of achievement takes a team effort. We know whenever you are making progress — which is essentially what this is all about — that it takes a team effort. It has been a really difficult challenge over the last two years. You really have led the way, getting students back in classrooms with full, in-person instruction.”
In addition to the banner, the honor comes with a $10,500 award.
The Seaford School District’s other honorees were West Seaford Elementary School, which earned a Recognition School award, and Frederick Douglass Elementary School, named a School of Continued Excellence. A 2020 Recognition School award winner, Frederick Douglass showed marked growth, but a school cannot be given that distinction in consecutive years.
“The recognition is a testament to the great work being done by the Seaford staff each day in the classroom,” said Seaford Superintendent Dr. Corey Miklus.
Dr. Bunting agreed.
“Both that district team and the school board of education have to be supportive of its schools, and that’s why you see these results. It is teamwork that makes the difference,” said Dr. Bunting. “Together as leaders, you all managed to make sure that our students can return to and stay in school. And we know the very best medicine for the pandemic is to have kids in school with talented teachers really working toward making sure that they are getting what they deserve. Frankly, something is really working here in Seaford.”
The governor added, “Dr. Bunting said that the Seaford School District is really leading the way — hitting the ball out of the park. And that is certainly the case.”
This isn’t Blades Elementary’s only recognition banner. In 2019, it was honored as a School of Excellence and also was a Superstar in Education award recipient.
“We’re excited to have another banner to join our foyer,” Ms. Jennette said.
Delaware’s 2021 Recognition Schools are:
Each Recognition School will receive an $8,000 award, a certificate and a banner.
“In a school year when our schools faced extraordinary challenges, including remote and hybrid learning, these students still made extraordinary progress,” said Dr. Bunting. “I am so proud of these school communities for how they rallied to support student needs. This recognition is well deserved.”