Lakeshore News Tonight

Region Blue Ribbon Schools Named

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September 25, 2013 — Two Northwest Indiana schools will head to the nation’s capital for their excellence in education.  U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan designated 236 public schools and 50 private schools the 2013 National Blue Ribbon Schools.

“I think my school is a distinguished school.  I think it’s one of the greatest schools in America,” said Kiersten Stowe, Salk Elementary School Fourth Grade Student

Stowe was right on target about her school.  Director of Elementary Curriculum and Instruction Kara Bonin said the award assures Stowe, along with other students and staff members, of the hard work already in progress.

“I think it’s a validation of all the effort that our staff has made to align their curriculum, to collaborate,” said Bonin.

Bonin served as principal of the award winning school last year and the year prior, when it received an A letter grade from the State of Indiana’s Department of Education.  She said part of the secret to their success is building a community within the walls of the institution.

“We come together every Monday morning and we celebrate successes of classrooms of students.  We also set a goal for the week.  It’s usually a behavior goal.  What are the things that we’re going to be working on?  Being respectful, being responsible, being safe,” said Bonin.

“Something that’s new to me is the PBIS model that they use here, Positive Behavior Intervention System.  Coming from different school systems that didn’t use that, I think that that has a huge impact.  Even though it’s a behavior system, it’s positive.  Yes, I do have discipline issues sometimes, but I also have positive conversations with students about their academics and their behavior,” said Alison Petralia, Salk Assistant Principal.

Sec. Duncan also named 286 schools across the country National Blue Ribbon Schools, including Morgan Township Elementary School in Valparaiso.

At Salk, in Barb Law’s fourth grade class, Stowe and her peers work hard at being the best.

“I try to follow the directions from my teacher because she always talks about ISTEP.  I want to do well on ISTEP and try to get better scores than last year and try to get Pass Pluses in all my ISTEP grades.  I will try to get As and not Bs or less,” said Stowe.

“The relationships that our staff have with the children is very motivational, it’s supportive and caring,” said Michelle Hellwelge, Salk Principal.

Hellwelge is charged with keeping the tradition of success in the classroom as the new principal.  She said parents are the best help in accomplishing that goal.

“That person is their role model for what a successful adult looks like and they see that on a daily basis,” said Hellwelge.

The Parent Teacher Organization plays a big role organizing programs to keep students motivated.

“The children, they know I’m going to work hard and then I’m also going to be able to have after school activities,” said Patricia Diaz, a parent.

“Public schools do an outstanding job educating every youngster who walks through their door.  It’s not about being able to pick and choose kids, it’s about being able to provide the kind educational support services so that every youngster leaves 12th grade as a productive adult,” said Mark Sperling, Merrillville Schools Superintendent.

Representatives from each school will convene in Washington, D.C. November 18-19 for a recognition ceremony.

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