Ticonderoga Middle School has been named a “School of Distinction” by the College for Every Student program. Pictured are, back from left, Ti Middle School Principal Bruce Tubbs, Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, state Sen. Betty Little, Ti school board member Mark Russell, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach in the U.S. Department of Education John White, CFES Director Rick Dalton, Ti Superintendent John McDonald; front, student Jamie Cox, student Samuel Shelmidine, Ti guidance councilor Samantha Wells and Steve Boyce, CFES program director for Ti schools.
As Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach in the U.S. Department of Education John White has learned one thing. No two schools are alike.
“Every place I go is different,” he said. “I always try to bring back information to the department that points out rural schools have different needs than urban schools, but that even rural schools are all different. Each school faces its own unique challenges.”
White visited Crown Point Central School and Ticonderoga Middle School Sept. 6 after a morning stop at Willsboro Central School. He joined College For Every Student President
Rick Dalton at the schools, which were each recognized as a CFES “School of Distinction” for efforts in creating high levels of college awareness and raising aspirations among students.
One midwest school White visited had a superintendent who also served as a principal and a bus driver. Another school was led by a senior teacher with a shared superintendent who visited once a week. Schools need to do whatever works for their students and communities, White said.
“That’s why I’m here to listen and learn,” White told Crown Point teachers. “I want to hear your ideas and figure out what works and why.”
Why White believes local schools know best, he also believes schools need help.
“Schools need partners,” the federal official said. “CFES is a partner here. I want to see what CFES has done and what its impact has been.”
A goal of CFES is to encourage college attendance, White noted.
“One of President Obama’s initiatives is to have the United States have the highest percentage of college graduates in the world by 2020,” White said. “We used to lead the world in that area, but we’ve fallen to the middle of the pack. That has to change.”
White noted the struggling American economy is linked to a decline in America’s educational standing. He said colleges produce entrepreneurs, small business leaders and skilled workers.
“We need all of those people,” he said. “Now more than ever.”
College For Every Student, a national non-profit that helps under-served students get to college and be successful there, has granted “School of Distinction” awards to 16 schools nationwide for their success in meeting goals during the 2010-11 academic year. The goals include 90 percent or more of students increasing their attendance rate, grade-point average, level of civic engagement and leadership capacity.
“This is very exciting for Crown Point Central School,” Shari Brannock, Crown Point superintendent, said. “This is a great honor.”
Crown Point and Ti Middle School were also named “Schools of Distinction” last year when 14 schools nationwide were cited.
Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward joined White and Dalton on their tour.
“I want to congratulate all of your,” Sayward told Crown Point teachers. “In today’s world it’s more and more important to have a college degree. I want to congratulate and thank our teachers for helping make that happen.”
Dalton pointed out the accomplishments at Crown Point. The school has a teacher as mentor program, holds an annual CFES college rally, offers CFES scholarships to graduating seniors, has a bullying-prevention program and had a 100 percent graduation rate in 2010-11.
The CFES contingent visited Ticonderoga Middle School after its stop in Crown Point. There state Sen. Betty Little joined in the program.
Ticonderoga Middle School is a leader in the CFES program, Dalton noted. The school has participated in a CFES student exchange program with a school in Hawaii, participated in a mentoring program involving Castleton (Vt.) State and Middlebury College and conducted a community service leadership initiative.
“This is a terrific program and we are honored to be recognized by CFES as a ‘School of Distinction’,” John McDonald, Ticonderoga school superintendent said. “It was also great to have the Under Secretary of Education (White) visit our school because he wanted to see the good things we are doing. We know rural education is often a challenge, but through programs like CFES we have been able to expose our students to opportunities not normally presented to them. That includes mentoring, service learning and early college awareness.”