One Columbus school among 13 in Georgia to earn highest national honor

Muscogee County Public Education Center
Muscogee County Public Education Center

A Muscogee County school is among 13 schools in Georgia and 349 in the country to be named a 2018 National Blue Ribbon School, the highest honor awarded by the U.S. Department of Education.

Britt David Magnet Academy is one of two schools in the Columbus area to be on the prestigious list this year, which was announced Monday. E.A. White Elementary School on Fort Benning, part of the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity, also is on the list.

The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program is in its 36th year and accepts nominations from top education officials in all states and territories. As many as 420 schools can be nominated each year. Recognition is based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.

Schools selected for recognition are honored in one of two performance categories, based on all student scores, subgroup student scores and graduation rates:

  • Exemplary High Performing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests.
  • Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools in closing achievement gaps between a school’s student groups and all students during the past five years.

Britt David was honored as an Exemplary High Performing School. Principal Karen Garner told the Ledger-Enquirer in an email that she is proud of the school’s students and faculty.

“I’d like to congratulate all of the schools being recognized,” she said. “I am extremely honored and blessed to work with such outstanding educators, students who challenge us and parents who support us.”

The achievement comes from a team approach, said Garner, in her second year as Britt David’s principal, part of 11 in MCSD after 27 as an educator in Alabama.

“Dedication and hard work of students, educators, families and community all contribute to our success,” she said.

Britt David is the Muscogee County School District’s only elementary school without an attendance zone. So its students come from all over Columbus.

Incoming kindergartners must post a qualifying score on the magnet’s entrance exam on a first-come, first-serve basis. All other incoming students are considered based on an entrance exam, previous grades, attendance, test scores, discipline records and available space.

Britt David’s student enrollment, according to the National Blue Ribbon School report, is 48 percent white, 23 percent black, 22 percent Asian, 2 percent Hispanic, 2 percent Native American, 2 percent multiracial and 1 percent Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and 22 percent economically disadvantaged.

E.A. White Elementary also was honored as an Exemplary High Performing School. Principal Renee Mallory told the Ledger-Enquirer in a phone interview Tuesday that the award is a fitting way to end the 60-year history of the school’s original building, where 240 students attended, and start another chapter in the new building, which has 550 students now.

“We had the ribbon-cutting last Wednesday, so this has been a big week,” said Mallory, in her fifth year as White’s principal, part of 12 at Fort Benning after 34 in MCSD.

“Communication is the big thing, the sense of community,” she said of the key to her school’s success. “Parents in our building all the time, a lot of involvement from our Partners in Education, . . . a lot of visibility of the teachers in the community, not just at school functions, and very supportive parents.”

In a video message to the honorees, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said, “I’m pleased to celebrate with you as your school is named a National Blue Ribbon School. We recognize and honor your important work in preparing students for successful careers and meaningful lives. Congratulations on your students’ accomplishments and for your extraordinary commitment to meeting their unique needs.”

DeVos and the department will celebrate with representatives of the 300 public and 49 private school honorees Nov. 7-8 in Washington, D.C.

The other Georgia 2018 National Blue Ribbon Schools are:

Public schools — Austin Elementary School in DeKalb County, Heards Ferry Elementary School in Fulton County, Kittredge Magnet School in DeKalb County, Lake Windward Elementary School in Fulton County, Settles Bridge Elementary School in Forsyth County, Shakerag Elementary School in Fulton County Schools, and Simpson Elementary School in Gwinnett County.

Private schools — Athens Academy in Athens, Christ the King School in Atlanta, Holy Redeemer Catholic School in Johns Creek, Mount Bethel Christian Academy in Marietta, and Saint James Catholic School in Savannah.

Alabama has five 2018 National Blue Ribbon Schools: Arab Elementary School, Arab City Schools; Athens Elementary School, Athens City Schools; Liberty Park Middle School, Vestavia City Schools; Mountain Brook Elementary School, Mountain Brook City Schools; Rock Quarry Elementary School, Tuscaloosa City Schools.

The other DoDEA 2018 National Blue Ribbon Schools are: Alconbury Elementary School at RAF Alconbury, Huntingdon, U.K., and Alexander M. Patch Elementary School in Stuttgart, Germany.

More than 8,500 schools have received this designation since 1982. This is the fifth time for Britt David (also in 1998, 1999, 2004 and 2012). Others in the Columbus area have been Columbus High School (2004), Edgewood Elementary School (2004), Hardaway High School (1984 and 1985), Morris R. McBride Elementary on Fort Benning (2016) and Rigdon Road Elementary School (2005). Two schools in Auburn, the Early Education Center (1998 and 1999) and Wrights Mills Elementary School (2008) also were awarded.

Mark Rice, 706-576-6272, @MarkRiceLE