September 28, 2017
Danbury’s Morris Street School named ‘National Blue Ribbon School’
DANBURY, CONN. — Every morning and afternoon, the some 370 students who attend Morris Street School walk to and from school together, flanked by family members and friends. The neighborhood school offers family events from reading nights to picnics and garden activities to make the school a place where children want to be. Yet despite the challenges that come with being in low-income area with many families struggling to make ends meet, Morris Street faculty and staff have worked to make sure that students have the encouragement and environment in which to succeed.
This year, Morris Street School was named by the United States Department of Education as a “National Blue Ribbon School,” a distinction bestowed on more than 8,500 schools over the past 35 years. Today, the 342 schools recognized this year were announced by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. On Nov. 6 and 7, the secretary and the Department of Education will celebrate with the honorees at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.
“Morris Street School began a very serious transformation initiative 18 years ago with an implementation of a distributive leadership model,” said Morris Street’s principal William Santarsiero. “This approach empowers all staff and parents to focus on two common goals being increasing achievement for all students and building a school climate that is conducive to learning and teaching. These twin goals have paid great dividends, and we are excited to have achieved our transformation expectations.”
According to the U.S. Department of Education website, The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program accept nominations of both public and non-public schools in existence for five years that meet one of two criteria: Exemplary High Performing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests, or Exemplary Achievement Gap-Closing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools in closing achievement gaps between a school’s subgroups and all students over the past five years.
“The care given to its students by the faculty, staff and administrators at Morris Street is at the foundation of the tremendous academic growth that which the Blue Ribbon is based,” said Superintendent Dr. Sal Pascarella. “Mr. Santarsiero, the veteran principal, has high expectations for himself and his staff and they serve as a model for the student body. The Board of Education and the entire school community are proud of this recognition given to Morris Street, and we all know its success will continue.”
“Congratulations to the dedicated students, parents, teachers, and the administrators of Morris Street School,” said Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton. “Being named a National Blue Ribbon school is a prestigious achievement and this award couldn’t be more deserved. Morris Street School continues to exceed expectations and has become a true model for the rest of the state. On behalf of the entire city, thank you for your hard work and for being a shining example of our great school system.”
This is not the school’s first honor: it was named a “School of Distinction” for 2015-16 school year by the Connecticut Department of Education along with five other Danbury schools – Ellsworth Avenue, Hayestown Avenue, Mill Ridge Primary, Park Avenue and South Street. . Danbury had the highest number of the 116 recognized schools in the state, along with Greenwich and Ridgefield districts, which also had six.
In addition to garden activities and reading programs, the school has worked tireless to bring numerous programs to the students. Last year, kindergarten teacher Tracey Scalzo was awarded a grant from the Danbury Education Foundation to hatch baby chicks in her classroom. Also last year, 24 fifth-grade students dined on chicken cordon bleu and gateau with chocolate mousse while learning about how to set a table and converse during a meal. The event was sponsored by Sodexo, the district’s food service provider.
Board of Education chair Ralph Pietrafesa said that the award was the result of a lot of hard work and progress, and added that Morris Street School has a long history of blending school community and family to make sure that students get the resources they need to achieve.
“Congratulations to the students and staff at Morris Street for this great accomplishment,”
There will be a reception honoring Morris Street School staff and faculty at the Oct. 11 BOE meeting at the Danbury Public Schools administrative building on Beaver Brook Road.