Jacksonville schools 2 of 25 Texas Blue-Ribbon winners

JACKSONVILLE, TX (KLTV) - By Layron Livingston - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email | Twitter

JACKSONVILLE, TX (KLTV) - It was a big blue ribbon for the "blue and gold." The Texas Education Agency has announced that not one but two Jacksonville ISD campuses made the list of 25 Texas Blue Ribbon Schools.

The award is handed down by the U.S. Education Department, recognizing schools with dramatic improvement and outstanding performance.

The winning recipe: reading, writing and arithmetic combined with something else.

"Phenomenal teachers...unbelievable teachers that truly care about the children," said Dr. Amber Penn, principal of Fred Douglass Elementary. "[They] build relationships with those kids. We just have a community culture here."

The school was recognized for dramatic improvement on state tests for the past five years.

"We ask ourselves, 'What can we do tomorrow that's better than what we did today,' so we'll always be learning," said Penn.

"This is another affirmation of the quality education that's been going on in the Jacksonville schools," said JISD Superintendent Dr. Joe Wardell.

He says the district was nominated by the state, back in November.

"The individuals on our campus as well as the students and the parents have a real passion for education and are really focused on doing the right thing for kids," said Wardell.

He says one of the criteria: each school has to be at least 40% economically disadvantaged. Eighty-three percent of the students at Fred Douglass come from disadvantaged homes. At West Side it is closer to 90%.

"A lot of our students have not been exposed to print," said West Side Elementary Principal Sandi Jones. "They've not been read to at night…and that is so important in a young child's education."

West Side was recognized for five straight years of high test scores. But it is not just about academics.

"If they need someone to be their cheerleader, we're their cheerleader," said Jones. "When we show them we believe in them, they start believing in themselves."

Both West Side and Fred Douglass Elementaries are pre-k to fourth grade campuses. They will each be recognized for five years. We are told this is the first time the district's been recognized with the selective Blue Ribbon.

Copyright 2010 KLTV. All rights reserved.