OLA goes blue ribbon

Our Lady of Assumption is one of 50 private schools across the country that will now receive national recognition as a top American school.

On Friday, September 10, the school received an e-mail from US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan notifying the institution it has been named as a 2010 Blue Ribbon School.

The federal designation is given out to schools across the country that show significant progress and achievement.

Only 304 schools – 254 public and 50 private – were recognized for the honor this year. OLA is one of two schools in the state to get the award.

“It’s a great blessing. It’s a great recognition and it’s a great affirmation,” Father Donald M. Dwyer said. “Secretary Duncan told us that we are a model for New York state and a model for the United States. It’s humbling, but it’s very gratifying.”

According to the Department of Education, the designation is based mainly on a school’s performance on state tests. The schools must have high marks on the assessments and show significant improvement over several years.

Since 1982 more than 6,000 schools have been recognized for the achievement.

“We have Smart boards and superior, second-to-none tech in every classroom. We also have an experienced faculty that prepares the students well for their standardized tests,” Dwyer said about how the school earned the designation. “Our reading and math scores were off the charts this year. One of the reasons we won is because our scores dramatically improved over a three year period.”

During that time, the school was headed by former principal Katy Feeney. Anthony Puleo took over the post at the start of this school year.

Dwyer said he is especially proud of the designation because the school has one of the lowest tuition rates of the 50 private schools recognized.

Schools must apply to the education department to be recognized for by the program. This was the first and last time OLA applied.

“Once you are a Blue Ribbon School, it’s like winning the Nobel Peace Prize,” Dwyer said. “It’s a designation that lives on forever.”

Dwyer said the roughly 340-student facility, which teaches kids from pre-K through eighth grade, has already started getting calls from parents who would prefer to take their children to a nationally recognized school.

Duncan already read the names of the schools receiving this year’s recognition in a televised ceremony earlier this month. But Father Dwyer, principal Puleo, Feeney, and Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of New York Dr. Timothy McNiff will still travel to Washington, DC for a two-day ceremony in November, where they will receive a plaque from Duncan.

“Our nation has a responsibility to help all children realize their full potential,” Secretary Duncan said in a statement to the press. “Schools honored with the Blue Ribbon Schools award are committed to achievement and to ensuring that students learn and succeed. Their work reflects the conviction that every child has promise and must receive a quality education.”

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