Pond Cove Elementary School received recognition as a National Blue Ribbon School from the U.S. Department of Education on Sept. 24. File photo (2018) courtesy of Jason Manjourides

CAPE ELIZABETH — On Sept. 24, Pond Cove Elementary was a “proud” recipient of the National Blue Ribbon School honor from the U.S. Department of Education.

In a letter to families, Principal Jason Manjourides said that Pond Cove was one of three schools in Maine to receive the award. The elementary school also received the “Exemplary High Performing” distinction, designated for the highest performing schools in the state — within the top 15 percent, measured through statewide assessments.

“We began the comprehensive application this past spring after being nominated in January,” Manjourides said. “The process, which outlined our many strengths, was very rewarding and required the support of several staff members. It is wonderful to celebrate our many successes and to be celebrated at the national level.”

Nationally, 367 schools were recognized as a Blue Ribbon School, the U.S. Department of Education said. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced the award recipients.

“The coveted National Blue Ribbon Schools award affirms the hard work of educators, families, and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content,” the department said. “Now in its 38th year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed almost 10,000 awards to more than 9,000 schools, with some schools winning multiple awards.”

A virtual ceremony to honor the recognized schools will take place on Nov. 12 and 13, Manjourides said.

Assistant Principal Sarah Forrey-Pettit said that she could speak “all day” about the work and people who made Pond Cove’s National Blue Ribbon honor possible.

“I am proud of the collaborative work our team has engaged in to create a positive, rigorous, and safe school environment where children thrive,” she said. “This honor is a reflection of our entire school community. Our teachers, staff, students, and parents are all honorees of this prestigious designation and I feel grateful and proud to be a member of this uniquely dedicated group.”

Forrey-Pettit highlighted some of the efforts that Pond Cove has completed and implemented over the past few years, which she said represent the effort and dedication each individual in the school community possesses.

“Over the past two years, we created schoolwide expectations and established core values, an initiative we call Peaceful Pond Cove, which has given our staff and students common language and clearly outlined and defined expectations for being responsible, respectful, and safe,” she said. “The best part is students can explain what our core values are, the expectations for all common areas of the school, and the reinforcement links system that is connected to (the initiative).”

Pond Cove met the requirements to be a Common Sense School, which is based on the school’s ability to ensure students understand and practice responsible digital citizenship, Forrey-Pettit said.

The school also encourages student leadership and involvement through student mentoring, she said. Older students will mentor younger students, supporting student innovation and ideas.

“Students help lead daily announcements and establish opportunities for our school community to support organizations that contribute to society,” Forrey-Pettit said. “This includes student-organized donation drives for animal shelters, aquatic animal protection agencies, homeless shelters, grief resource centers, and children’s hospitals.”

Forrey-Pettit also acknowledged the Pond Cove Parent Association, saying that the group provides the school with volunteers as well as organizes Art Day and fundraising events.

“A parent organization dubbed The Playground Committee helped fundraise and build a brand new playground in order to create a more engaging and safe outdoor learning space that is a continuation of classroom learning,” she said.

Other notable efforts include Pond Cove’s Responsive Classroom approach to teaching, “which focuses on the integration of academic and social-emotional skills for classroom management and instruction,” and the expansion of the school’s health class to kindergarten and first grade, Forrey-Pettit said.

“Every staff member at Pond Cove works diligently to advocate for and support students – above all else,” she said. “Suffice it to say that our school has set out to accomplish important milestones that enrich and enhance student learning and growth in all areas essential to child development, and we are taking steps every day to keep reaching and growing and learning.”

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