When Rachel Carson Elementary School (RCES) was named a 2012 Blue Ribbon School by the Maryland State Department of Education in January, Principal Larry Chep received the award at a presentation in Baltimore. Then he brought the celebration home.
Students, faculty and state and local officials participated in the Rachel Carson Blue Ribbon Day Celebration on May 1, beginning with a red carpet welcome for all students as they arrived and continuing with activities throughout the day.
The award honored RCES for its outstanding academic performance, as well as its leadership, professional development and instructional programs.
“The achievement RCES has had over the last few years … is not just because you’re focused on tests,” said Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Joshua Starr, speaking at a school-wide assembly. “It’s because you’re focused on all the things we know are the right things for kids. … RCES is a beacon for the rest of Montgomery County Public Schools by showing how we can do things right.”
Dr. Bernard Sadusky, the Maryland State Department of Education interim supervisor, presented Chep with a Blue Ribbon medallion and shared with everyone what a great honor the recognition is for the school.
“There are 1,700 schools in the state of Maryland,” said Sadusky. “Only six of them are  Blue Ribbon schools. … You are the best of the best.”
RCES was the only school from Montgomery County to receive the Blue Ribbon award this year.
“There is great excitement among the students and staff [over receiving this recognition,]” said Chep. “Ever since being named, there is great pride that permeates through the building. … For staff, it validates what we do on a daily basis. This is the highest compliment a school can receive.”
Also attending the event were Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett; Gaithersburg Mayor Sidney Katz; Gaithersburg City Council members Cathy Drzyzgula, Ryan Spiegel and Henry Marraffa Jr.; and numerous other state and local representatives.
Decked out in school colors of blue and yellow, students sang to attendees, belting out a new school song written by music teacher Yevgeniya Oleshkevich and, in keeping with the theme of the day, “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang, with words customized by RCES teachers Christine Troilo and Alisha King.
Then the fun began in earnest. Classes enjoyed picnicking outside under sunny skies, jumping on inflatables, and throwing balls to try to dunk Chep and Assistant Principal Cathy Shinn in water. A DJ played music, and there were cotton candy and sno cone treats for all.
Chep said the goal of the celebration was twofold. “First it’s for the state Department of Education to officially recognize our students, staff and parent community for the outstanding work we do to ensure students are successful,” he said. “It’s a time to be reflective and celebrate our achievements. Finally, it’s a time to show our students that hard work pays off.”
As a state winner, RCES now goes on to compete in the National Blue Ribbon Awards program. Winners will be announced in September by the U.S. Department of Education.
“I hope the impact [of this recognition] fuels students, staff and parents to work as hard or harder to improve on what we are providing and accomplishing now,” said Chep. “Hopefully it’s a motivator to strive for even better results.
“I also hope everyone feels the pride in earning this award, so that when students, staff and parents speak of RCES, they do so with enthusiasm, excitement and with great memories when they move on.”