Students at Fort Mill's Gold Hill Elementary School were giving thumbs up and high fives in the hallway Tuesday after learning the U.S. Department of Education had designated Gold Hill a National Blue Ribbon School, one of the highest honors a school can achieve.
Gold Hill was one of four South Carolina schools that won the national award. The others were Wright Elementary in Anderson 2, Jennie Moore Elementary in Charleston County and W.M. Anderson Primary in Williamsburg County.
Blue Ribbon elementary and secondary schools are recognized either for the highest academic achievement or for closing academic achievement gaps between students in minority groups and others. Fort Mill High is the only other school in that district to have won the award.
Gold Hill, where standardized test scores were among the state's top 10 percent in 2007, was nominated last fall by the S.C. Department of Education. They and the other three schools each met Adequate Yearly Progress in achievement by minority groups as required by the federal No Child Left Behind law in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
Gold Hill maintained an overall "Excellent" rating on its school report card from 2001 to 2006 and has been a state Palmetto Gold Award winner with the highest level of student achievement and the fastest rate of improvement for five consecutive years.
Praise from state
In a press release Tuesday, the state education department also cited Gold Hill's Wednesday Mini-Sessions, during which teachers share research, successful practices and new ideas. The release also singled out teachers' close collaboration with parents and the community.
"We have tremendous support from the parents and the community and the board and our administration," Gold Hill Elementary Principal Terry Brewer said Tuesday. "There's a lot of talented folks in our area. So many people have worked with strong commitment to support our schools."
Brewer said Gold Hill "represents one of the many excellent schools you would find in the Fort Mill school district."
Fort Mill Schools Superintendent Keith Callicutt, who announced the award on an in-school televised broadcast Tuesday afternoon, echoed that.
"The fact that it is a national honor speaks volumes of the accomplishments, not only of that school, but of all our schools," he said. "To me it's a visible, tangible expression of what they have accomplished for years and years. It also speaks volumes about our teachers, administrators and parents."
The school celebrated Tuesday with balloons and blue ribbons.
School representatives will accept the award and accompanying flag in a Washington, D.C., ceremony in November. That same week, the school will host a community-wide celebration on Nov. 15 to recognize American Education Week and all the people who helped make Gold Hill a success, Brewer said.