Principals from Diocese’s Blue Ribbon schools honored at national ceremony


By Christina Leslie | Correspondent

The principals of the five schools that were honored as 2018 National Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence and staff from the diocesan Department of Catholic Schools traveled to Washington for an awards ceremony Nov. 7-8. Courtesy photo.

Representatives from the five Diocese of Trenton schools named as 2018 National Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence in October gathered with their peers from across the country Nov. 7-8 in Washington to receive their awards and share best practices.

“It was a distinct honor to gather with [them], an experience beyond compare,” said JoAnn Tier, diocesan Catholic schools superintendent. “Those in leadership in Catholic schools pour themselves into the experiences of each day and work to provide an atmosphere rooted in faith and enhanced with a child-sensitive environment of curiosity and wonder.

Photo Gallery: Blue Ribbon Awards Ceremony

Tier added, “Congratulations are extended to [the principals of the] 2018 National Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence. They are the inspiration for students and faculty. They created a vision of what can be and enlisted the engagement of students and the entire community to bring that dream to fruition.”

Principals Robert Dougherty of St. Catharine School, Spring Lake; Carol Bathmann of St. Dominic School, Brick; Neil Begley of St. Leo the Great School, Lincroft; JoAnn Giordano of St. James School, Red Bank, and Filippini Sister Angelina Pelliccia of St. Jerome School, West Long Branch, were among those who attended the two-day ceremony. Clergy including Father Peter James Alindogan, pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish, which is responsible for St. Jerome School; Msgr. Harold Cullen, pastor of St. Catharine-St. Margaret Parish, as well as St. Dominic’s current pastor, Father Brian Woodrow, and retired pastor Msgr. James Brady, who traveled from Ireland to attend, were also present to witness the bestowal of honors.

Aba Kumi, U.S. Department of Education National Blue Ribbon program director, met with each school’s contingent to present them with the Blue Ribbon flag and a plaque denoting the award. She said she was delighted to meet the group for whom hard work, civility and excellence are the norm.

“You are filled with courage and the belief to come together and do what is right for our children,” Kumi told the assemblage hailing from 300 public and 49 nonpublic schools chosen for 2018.

School delegations had opportunities to learn from national speakers and participate in networking cafes, sessions for nonpublic school personnel and roundtable sessions on topics such as creative teaching, learning and professional development. As the principal of a school that has earned the Blue Ribbon twice, Begley delivered a presentation about how to make the most of the school’s award, sharing ideas about celebrations, marketing and business opportunities.

Learning from experts and one’s peers proved to be an energizing, rewarding experience for school personnel of the Diocese.

“There were so many individuals there that work hard every day to ensure that students receive the best education possible,” Giordano said. “I felt proud to be a part of a large group … to be recognized for their school’s significant and distinguished accomplishment.”

Dougherty agreed, saying, “Attending the event truly gave me a greater perspective of [St. Catharine School] being recognized on the national level. It was inspiring to attend workshops held by previous award-winning principals that shared their stories and ideas as to how they continued to push their schools forward. It was an invaluable experience.”

Calling the awards ceremony and luncheon “an incredible experience,” Bathmann asserted how the networking opportunities led to an exchange of ideas with a neighboring Catholic school.

“We enjoyed sharing ideas and building a friendship with the principal from St. Katharine Drexel Regional Catholic School in Holland, Pa., and two of the pastors from the churches that support the school,” Bathmann said. “The principal, Laura Clark, was interested to learn more about the wing that was added to our school in 2009 and plans to visit St. Dominic’s in the near future.”

Sister Angelina reiterated the “enormous pride and happiness” she felt for current and former St. Jerome School students, staff and families at the ceremony. She also explained how she found one particularly informative workshop.

“The National Catholic Educational Association presented a workshop, ‘Strategies for Leveraging Your National Blue Ribbon School Award,’” the principal said. “Emphasis was placed on how to celebrate the honor within the school community and then beyond by providing guides and helpful tips for developing action plans.”

Accolades for the Blue Ribbon Award were issued by U.S. Congressman Chris Smith (R-Hamilton), whose district includes St. James, St. Leo the Great and St. Catharine schools.

“There are few greater priorities we should have as a country than the education of our children, and I am thrilled that these schools are being honored as National Blue Ribbon Schools for their exemplary record in this regard,” Smith stated. “They earned this honor for not only their outstanding test results among all students, but their high graduation rates – exemplifying both excellence in education and in ensuring that all students are well-served by teachers and staff.”

Representing the diocesan Department of Catholic Schools at the ceremony were Tier and Dr. Margaret Boland, associate superintendent.

Tier said she relished the opportunity to gather with the pastors, principals and school representatives from the five Catholic winning schools of the Diocese, noting the awards ceremony evoked “elation, exhilaration and pride” as she witnessed them receiving the plaque naming their schools’ Blue Ribbon distinctions.

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