January 20, 2012
By ASHLEY JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer
Students and staff of Rich Acres Elementary School celebrated receiving the National Blue Ribbon award on Thursday with balloons, accolades, gifts and even blue ribbon cupcakes.
Rich Acres was one of only six public schools in Virginia last year to achieve the highest distinction awarded by the U.S. Department of Education. It is the first school in Henry County to earn the honor.
The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes public and non-public elementary, middle and high schools where students achieve at high levels and/or where the achievement gap is narrowing. Rich Acres learned in September that it had earned the award.
As the school’s 300 students and 65 staff members entered the Rich Acres gym Thursday, Magna Vista High School cheerleaders led a cheer containing the words, “We are proud of you.”
The gym featured blue and orange balloon displays created by the high school’s horticulture students. Rich Acres is a feeder school for Magna Vista.
Rich Acres Principal Elizabeth Hussey told the students, “you are the most important people in this room ... you are the reason that Rich Acres is so special” and why it is a blue ribbon school.
Reagan Griffith, fifth-grade SCA president at Rich Acres, introduced Magna Vista senior Harvey Taylor, who has been the quarterback on Magna Vista’s varsity football team for three years. He is a former SCA president at Rich Acres.
“I am proud that I came from Rich Acres,” Taylor said.
He encouraged the students to stay focused on their schoolwork and determined to achieve good grades. “I didn’t make it this far without school,” he said.
Also, strive to read regularly because “reading is all around us” and with “booksmarts and (good) grades, you can do anything,” Taylor said.
Henry County Schools’ new superintendent, Jared Cotton, told the students that they have shown that they set their sights high.
At Rich Acres, “everyone achieves at high levels,” including the students and teachers, he said.
Regardless of hard work, a school is successful only if the community supports its students, which the Rich Acres area has done, he added.
“I look forward to the continued success” at Rich Acres, Cotton said.
The students were delighted with several surprises presented by area businesses and organizations during the celebration.
Sheryl Agee with the United Way of Henry County and Martinsville said each student would receive a book in treat boxes located in each classroom. Max Hall with Chick-fil-A and Cathie Carter with Tacoma Inc. (which operates the local Taco Bell restaurants) announced the students would receive coupons from those businesses. Taco Bell coupons were planned for the school’s staff as well.
Tracie Powell with the Martinsville Speedway said the children would get pencils, paper clips, speedway stickers and certificates to attend the March truck race at the track, along with discount coupons for the truck race for their parents.
At the end of the celebration, a blue ribbon award flag was raised outside the front of the school. As it went up, Hussey asked that everyone remain silent to “reflect on all of the hard work.”
After the celebration, the students returned to their classrooms to eat blue ribbon cupcakes.
Pre-kindergarten special education teacher Nicole Helms said receiving the blue ribbon award “means that everyone has worked hard together.”
All of the teachers have collaborated to tailor instruction to meet each child’s needs and ensure that “no one is left behind,” she added.
Also taking part in Thursday’s celebration were more than 20 Henry County Schools representatives, including central office personnel, school board members and former principals of Rich Acres Elementary, and 30 additional students.
In addition, a reception was held Thursday evening for invited guests at the school.
The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program is part of a larger U.S. Department of Education effort to identify and disseminate knowledge about best school leadership and teaching practices.
Rich Acres also has exceeded state requirements and has been fully accredited for the past eight years, since the state began a school accreditation program.
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