Chazy Elementary School second grade teacher Tuesday Barcomb leads her class through the day’s lesson.
CHAZY — The call from the state Education Department came in before Christmas.
“Typically, when you get a call from state it’s not a good thing,” said Chazy Elementary School Principal Thomas Tregan.
Instead, the voice on the other end of the line informed Tregan that Chazy Elementary School was in the running for a National Blue Ribbon Award.
“It is the highest award the U.S. Department of Education gives to a school,” Tregan said. “We are 1 of 19 nominations from New York state.”
The National Blue Ribbon Schools program recognizes public and non-public elementary, middle and high schools where students achieve at very high levels and/or where the achievement gap is narrowing.
“In our case it is based on high-performing schools,” Tregan said.
The program was created in 1982 to bring attention to exemplary schools. High-performing schools are ranked among the most successful at teaching both reading and mathematics as measured by state or national assessments.
Nominated schools must submit applications describing school operations, including the use of assessments, curriculum, professional development, leadership and community and family involvement.
“They look at the last five years of test data,” Tregan said.
It took several members of the school community more than 100 hours to complete the application process, part of which was explaining why Chazy was a school that others across the nation should model themselves after.
Tregan said most of the other nominated schools are from much more affluent parts of the state.
Chazy, the first centralized rural school district in New York state, has a long history of excellence. Upon its creation in 1916, it was hoped that Chazy’s schools could be held as proof that rural education could be as good as anything found in an urban setting.
“I talk about the Chazy way of doing things,” said Superintendent John Fairchild. “It’s a high level, and students work hard, but the results are well worth it.”
At Chazy, the school community has embraced testing and new standards, Tregan said, adding that school board members do not have personal agendas and instead think about how their decisions affect students. There is a culture among staff of caring for students and maintaining a positive outlook, and staffers understand that the children are who they are there for, the elementary school principal added.
“It is a true academic environment,” he said.
The community is extremely supportive of education, Tregan said, and Chazy is small.
“One of our tremendous assets is our size,” Fairchild agreed.
Chazy is one of the few places where every student gets opportunities, Fairchild said.
“We understand what we do well with an eye toward the future,” he said.
Tregan said he loves working at Chazy. He remarks that there are not many student issues, parents rarely complain and staffers care. The Blue Ribbon nomination speaks well for students, the school community and staff, he said.
Regardless of whether or not the school ultimately gets a Blue Ribbon Award, the application process and the reflection it entailed were positive experiences for the school, Tregan said.