By Linda Dillman
A prestigious award from the United States Department of Education now hangs on the wall of Summit Road Elementary School honoring the work of its staff and students as a National Blue Ribbon School.
Summit Road Principal Melissa Drury, Reynoldsburg Schools Superintendent Tina Thomas-Manning, and teacher Tammy Groezinger accepted the award on behalf of the school during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., at the beginning of the month. The school also received congratulatory accolades from State Senator Kevin Bacon and U.S. Representative Pat Tiberi.
“We in central Ohio are fortunate to possess many fine educational institutions that train and educate our young people from kindergarten classrooms to university lecture halls,” wrote Tiberi. “Summit Road Elementary continues to be an example to all, and the school’s performance further enhances central Ohio’s reputation as an excellent place to live, work and raise a family.”
Summit Road joined a list of 328 other Blue Ribbon Schools announced on Sept. 28 by U.S. Secretary of Education John King, Jr. The award is based on overall academic excellence or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.
“National Blue Ribbon Schools are proof that we can prepare every child for college and meaningful careers,” King said in a video message to honorees. “Your schools are on the cutting edge, pioneering innovative educational practices—professional learning communities, project-based learning, social and emotional learning, positive behavior systems—making you shining examples for your communities, your state and the nation.”
During the Nov. 15 Reynoldsburg Board of Education meeting, Drury said, to her knowledge, this is the first school in Reynoldsburg to be identified as a Blue Ribbon School, an award presented to only the top half of one percent of all private and public schools across the nation.
“The whole school watched the announcement in September live in the cafeteria and in classrooms,” said Drury. “We talked with the kids ahead of time and said we did not know if we were one of the award winners. We had to wait a while before they got to the ‘S’s.’ The kids were super excited when they announced our name. They clapped and cheered and it was very emotional for me. It’s the hard work of the staff that deserves this award.”
In her application for the award, Drury detailed the school’s history, statistics, instructional methods and interventions, school climate and culture, professional development and community involvement.
The science, technology, engineering and math-based concept was created during the 2010-11 school year when a team of 20 educators from across Reynoldsburg City Schools designed the district’s first STEM elementary school. Summit Road opened its doors August 2011 with 386 students.
Drury was there from the beginning.
With multiple students wait-listed for enrollment, additional building sections opened in August 2012 for 100 children per grade level or 500 students total. Teaching and learning expanded beyond the confines of school walls with one-to-one technology devices in the classroom for easy access to instructional programs and resources.
“These same programs and resources are able to be accessed off-site around the clock so our students can continue their learning,” Drury wrote in the application. “Just outside our doors, students can engage in the learning that happens in a natural setting such as our wetlands with yurts, our courtyard, the student created butterfly garden, or the new Tinkerspace created by first graders”
According to Drury, Summit students not only show exemplary performance on traditional state measures, but also have multiple opportunities to engage in real work around topics that gain and hold their interest.
“With Library Museum student curators, we designed and created a Principal’s Gallery to showcase some of the very best student work, prototypes, and design thinking each month,” said Drury. “Students are celebrated during our Morning Spark when they are recognized in front of our entire school community and their parents. Being an exemplar shares the message that your engagement and hard work are leading to high academic performance.”
Thomas-Manning said she was astounded by the performance of Summit Road and said it was exactly why the school was named to the top one-half of one percent of schools nationwide.
“The vision for Summit born 10 to 12 years ago is really living through your vision,” Thomas-Manning said. “We knew it was going to be a special building.”