February 23, 2024
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Superintendent R.L. Richards made the announcement to the district last week during an assembly.

Ellysa Harris/Muleshoe Journal

Two area schools, Muleshoe High School and Springlake-Earth Elementary/Middle Schools, have been nominated as Blue Ribbon Schools, according to a press release from Texas Education Agency.

“When I got the phone call from the TEA commissioners, and they said, ‘Congratulations, we’ve nominated you for a Blue Ribbon School,’ I yelled with excitement,” said Superintendent Dr. R.L. Richards of Muleshoe ISD. “Yes, it’s big. That’s the reason they call it Blue Ribbon. In my 30 years as a superintendent, this is the first time one of my schools has been nominated. I’m really pumped.”

MHS was one of 13 schools nominated as an Exemplary High-Performing School, while Springlake Earth Elementary/Middle School was one of 13 schools nominated as an Exemplary Achievement-Gap-Closing School.

“This is the first time in the 120 years of our school that we’ve been nominated,” said David Crum, Springlake-Earth superintendent. “It’s a tremendous honor.”

After the nomination, schools must complete a rigorous application process. Richards said that he, along with Assistant Superintendent Dani Heathington and Principal Cindy Bessire, had already started to fill out the application for the award.  

 “After you’re nominated by the state, you undergo a lengthy application process,” Crum said. “The application is due in April. If it’s successfully completed, you’re moved from ‘nominated’ to an actual Blue Ribbon School in September.”

A press release from TEA said, “In the Lone State State, public schools are considered for nomination based on student performance on the first administration of the previous year’s STAAR assessments, as well as College and Career data and Graduation rates if applicable. This year’s nominees highlight the diverse learning environments found across the state, with the inclusion of traditional elementary, middle and high school campuses, along with magnet and early college high schools. These nominees also represent 12 of the state’s 20 Education Service Center regions, spanning from the Panhandle down to the Coastal Bend and from the Piney Woods of East Texas to the Plains of West Texas.”

“The criteria are strictly academic,” Richards said. “They took scores from the STAAR test, looking from where students were to how much they’ve improved. Our kids achieved enormous amounts after the COVID slide.”

“We’ve seen tremendous growth in closing the learning gaps,” Crum said. “Our instruction is data-driven. We’ve made a commitment to look at the data, spend extra time on tutorials and put kids in positions to raise their scores. We work in Professional Learning Communities that include all teachers across grade levels, working collaboratively to help students in particular areas.

“We hold a series of meetings and training to help us understand data and apply it in lessons. If a student shows a deficiency, we have a strategy to help them learn with leadership from principals and instructional coaches.”

Muleshoe High School has 383 students enrolled, while Springlake-Earth Elementary/Middle School has 190. Less than 1 percent of campuses in the state are nominated for the opportunity to apply for the Blue Ribbon School designation.

“It’s so exciting that way out in West Texas, a rural area that has some economic difficulties, compared to Dallas and Houston, some of the high-dollar districts. This is why it’s such an honor to us. It’s amazing. I’m glad to see some rural districts nominated,” Richards said.

“We have a close working relationship with Muleshoe schools,” Crum said. “We appreciate their collaboration in helping kids advance.”

According to the press release, “Initiated by the United States Department of Education (USDE) in 1982, the National Blue Ribbon Schools program recognizes public and private elementary, middle and high schools that have high student achievement and/or highlights where exemplary progress has been made in closing achievement gaps among student subpopulations. Since the program’s founding, 9,000 schools across that nation have received this prestigious designation.”

The nominated schools in Texas for 2022 include the following:

Exemplary High-Performing Schools

Kerr High School, Alief ISD

East Elementary, Brownwood ISD

School for the Talented and Gifted, Dallas ISD

School of Science and Engineering, Dallas ISD

Devers Elementary, Devers ISD

Garden City Elementary, Glasscock County ISD

Grand Prairie Collegiate Institute, Grand Prairie ISD

Gruver Elementary, Gruver ISD

Gruver Junior High, Gruver ISD

Happy High School, Happy ISD

Early College High School at Midland, Midland ISD

Nursery Elementary, Nursery ISD

Vega Elementary, Vega ISD

Exemplary Achievement-Gap-Closing Schools

Bynum School, Bynum ISD

Claude Schools, Claude ISD

Dekalb Elementary, Dekalb ISD

Terrell Elementary, Denison ISD

J L Everhart Magnet Elementary, Longview ISD

Muleshoe High School, Muleshoe ISD

Smyer Schools, Smyer ISD

Somerset Elementary, Somerset ISD

Sonora Secondary School, Sonora ISD

Springlake-Earth Elementary/Middle School

Three Rivers Elementary, Three Rivers ISD

Valley Mills High School, Valley Mills ISD

Wink Elementary, Wink-Loving ISD

Gail M. Williams

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