By Kevin Kelley
Kim Conley, principal of Hilliard Elementary School, said teachers and staff at her school are never satisfied with the status quo.
That’s evident in Hilliard’s recent recognition as a national Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.
Conley, in her second year as Hilliard’s principal, credits the school’s talented students, their supportive families and a dedicated staff with the school’s achievements.
No single factor was responsible for the Blue Ribbon award, she said.
Schools applying for the recognition must complete a 20-plus-page application that includes demographic data, a summary of the curriculum and data reflecting student progress. Conley and 10 other staff members worked on the application, the principal said.
On the curriculum side, Conley noted the school’s strong emphasis on math and reading.
At Hilliard, it’s been important for the teachers to improve along with the students.
“A huge component is, How do you use professional development with your staff to move it forward?” Conley told West Life.
Conley believes that a successful elementary school program will provide a foundation for achievement throughout the district.
Resources are utilized in ways that benefit student achievement, she said.
“We want every child to succeed in every way,” Conley said.
Similar thoughts were expressed by Ben Hodge, principal of Bassett Elementary School, which was also recognized as a Blue Ribbon School.
Hodge, in his third year leading Bassett, said results from tests are used to help each student individually.
“To be a Blue Ribbon School, you have to show student growth in all areas, and we’ve done that,” Hodge said.
“In addition to being highly motivated, the staff at Bassett is also highly collaborative, meeting during common weekly planning times to find new and innovative ways to ensure success for all students,” Bassett’s application stated. “Through a cycle of screening, progress monitoring, and a multi-tiered prevention system, the staff reviews student data and plans interventions and extensions to accommodate every student.”
Hodge noted that Bassett’s curriculum is structured to ensure high achieving students get the appropriate attention. Care is taken that the educational program is aligned to match state requirements, he added.
Schools receiving the Blue Ribbon award had to meet the state’s annual yearly progress requirement for the previous year. Both Hilliard and Bassett earned an “Excellent” rating on the most recent Ohio Department of Education report card.
“It’s a great honor that two of the 13 Ohio schools nominated for such a prestigious award come from the Westlake City Schools,” Superintendent Dan Keenan said in a statement. “The Blue Ribbon nominations are a testament to the work and commitment of the teachers, principals, support staff, PTA and all who spend so much time seeing Bassett and Hilliard strive for excellence.”
Conley and Hodge will join other Blue Ribbon principals for a ceremony in Washington, D.C., next month. Each was allowed to bring an additional staff member, chosen by lottery among those able to attend. Media specialist Kim Getleka will also represent Hilliard, and student counselor Sandee Erdman will accompany Hodge.
Both schools plan local celebrations of the awards at dates to be determined.