St. John Neumann School tickled pink by Blue Ribbon

COLUMBIA — St. John Neumann School was one of nine elementary schools in South Carolina, and the first Catholic school in the state, to win the coveted National Blue Ribbon Schools award May 20.

To be a Blue Ribbon School, the staff and parents must complete a 45-page application that gives details about the school’s programs.

Every year, the U.S. Department of Education gives the awards to schools it believes are working hardest and achieving the most.

Students, employees and parents at St. John’s celebrated the good news May 20 with a popsicle party and a visit from Bishop David B. Thompson.

When Principal Margaret Adams came to the northeast Columbia school 10 years ago, enrollment had dwindled to 60. Since then, she and many others have worked to expand the enrollment to 365 with a variety of programs.

Parents have helped to paint the school, build an addition, and annually raise more than $100,000 at the school auction.

Dr. Robert J. Kealey, executive director of the Department of Elementary Schools for the National Catholic Educational Association, sent Adams a letter of congratulations May 25 for being recognized as a 1998-99 Blue Ribbon School of Excellence.

“This is a great honor that only 266 schools in the United States received this year. You have joined a very select group of schools that have been so named during the last 16 years. This award shows that not only do you have an exemplary academic program, but also you have a school that puts children and their needs first. When so many people criticize American education, your receiving this award demonstrates that some schools are showing the way to excellence,” writes Kealey.

He continues, “Your school is among 30 Catholic schools that received this award this year. This number is higher than the last time that elementary schools were recognized. In meriting this recognition, you bring honor not only to your own school but also to all Catholic schools because you demonstrate to the American public that Catholic schools provide a quality education infused with Christian virtues. You show that schools can provide an excellent academic education and also assist students to grow to become Christ-like.”

Dr. Adams attributes parent involvement, in cooperation with teachers, staff and children, as their most outstanding quality.

“We begin involving children in preschool in service projects,” she said. “The parents, teachers and staff have bought into the school and feel totally responsible for its success. St. John Neumann School is a caring involved community,”

Representatives from the school will travel to Washington this fall to receive their recognition from the U.S. Department of Education. They will also be honored at a reception for all the recognized Catholic schools hosted by the NCEA.