To the Point for 9/29/2005

11

IT’S A REALLY BIG DEAL, and anyone who thinks it isn’t, really isn’t paying attention.

Late last week school superintendent Tracy Caddell and principal Elizabeth Jones were told that Switzerland County Elementary School has earned a National Blue Ribbon under the U.S. Department of Education’s “No Child Left Behind” program.

This is a national award, coming on the heels of the school being honored last year by the Indiana Department of Education as a Four Star School; and legitimizes the school’s years of hard work on the part of the teachers, staff, students, and community to make SCES one of the top elementary schools in the nation.

When you begin to think about only 295 schools — that’s elementary, middle, and high schools; public and private — in the entire nation earned this award; and that only 11 in the state of Indiana were recognized; it should be easy to feel the pride and sense of accomplishment that swells not only in the school corporation, but in the entire county.

Switzerland County Elementary School is one of only three public elementary schools honored. Last year, there were only three public elementary schools honored, and Jefferson-Craig was one of those three.

That means of six schools honored over a two year period, two are right here in this county.

Wow.

That’s impressive.

That’s something to be proud of.

What does it mean? It means that when Jon Bond and members of his economic development commission go out and try and sell Switzerland County to the industrial and business community; when it comes to education they have a card to play that no other community in this state has.

Every community can offer a business thinking about relocating or building a new factory land and water and electricity and things like that; but more and more those businesses are taking a look at the quality of life that their employees will have in a given community.

They look at things like the schools their children will attend; and when they do, no community in the state — and maybe the nation — can stack up with Switzerland County.

But this also means that we can finally take a symbolic shovel and bury all of the lingering feelings and inequities that have floated around this county for many years.

No one wants to talk about it, but if people are honest, until recently there was a feeling that Switzerland County Elementary didn’t quite stack up with Jefferson-Craig when it came to quality of education.

It’s not easy to hear, but many people felt that way. People would falsify their addresses to show that they lived in the Jeff-Craig district; they would go to the school board and ask for an exception so that their kids could go to Jeff-Craig.

When Switzerland County Elementary School was placed on probation by the state several years ago, that feeling continued to percolate.

It wasn’t the fault of the teachers or the school; but it was a case when perception became reality in the minds of many people.

That has all changed now, and everyone can now take that silly notion and put it away for good. No elementary school is any better or any worse than the other.

Both have been recognized statewide; and both have been recognized nationally.

What a choice: “Do I want to send my child to that National award winning school; or to that one?”

Either way, your child wins, and so do you.

Any perception of an inferiority complex was shattered last Friday morning. In fact, it never should have existed in the first place. SCES has more community involvement and volunteerism than any school that I’ve ever seen. It has the support of its parents and of its community — and everyone should feel proud of what they have earned.

Make no mistake: Switzerland County Elementary was not given anything — they earned it.

As a county we should be very proud of what is taking place in terms of the educational achievement of our schools; which translates into the educational attainment of our children.

We have two outstanding elementary schools; a middle school with lofty expectations and a strong commitment from the staff and students to continue the trend toward excellence; and a high school that has been working long hours to put programs in place to assist our children in reaching all of the goals and aspirations that they have set forth for themselves.

On Friday morning I was privileged to stand in the library at Switzerland County Elementary School and see the looks of pride and accomplishment on the faces of the staff as they learned of their award.

For some, they had the look of people who were finally at the end of a long journey. For others, they saw the promise of heights not yet reached. Either way, a sense of accomplishment came rushing through — and it was well deserved.

And well earned.

Congratulations, faculty, staff, and students of Switzerland County Elementary School. It is truly a outstanding and well-deserved accomplishment.

And congratulations, Switzerland County, on having nationally award-winning elementary programs that give our children and grandchildren the right foundation for a lifetime of educational success.