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English celebrates national honor

March 09, 2011
"Becoming a Blue Ribbon School has not been an easy task nor has it happened overnight," English Elementary School Principal Debbie Ade told everyone gathered in the school's gymnasium Thursday morning to celebrate the honor.

Dr. Mark Eastridge, superintendent of the Crawford County Community School Corp., left, and English Elementary School Principal Debbie Ade display the 2010 Blue Ribbon School road sign that will be erected. Also pictured are English High School alum Charlotte Lucas and Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett. Photos by Chris Adams
And everyone meant everyone, as former teachers, students, administrators and school board members joined current staff, students and volunteers in paying tribute to English having been named a federal No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon School.

"Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your role in the achievement of English Elementary School," Ade said, after recognizing each of those people by name.

Former sixth-grade math teacher Monte Eckert, who retired from EES a few years ago only to return this year to fill a teaching vacancy at the fourth grade, echoed Ade.

"It takes everybody working together," he said.

Eckert recalled that he began teaching at English in 1973 and has witnessed a lot of changes, from countywide consolidation in 1976 to various physical and technological improvements. However, the biggest change, he said, was from not having a principal to having a part-time principal to finally having a full-time principal.

"There is when the major improvement started, when we started having a principal at each building," Eckert said.

He joked that when Ade walked into the school as principal for the first time in the late 1990s, everyone "knew change was coming. You know what? It wasn't bad change; it was good change."

However, Eckert, who spent his entire career at English, said the school's success has been a team effort that has included the staff, parents, volunteers and students.

"It's been a privilege, it's been an honor, just being a small part of that," he said.

Being named a Blue Ribbon School is a prestigious honor as less than 10 schools each year are nominated by the state for the award. However, it's becoming almost commonplace for the Crawford County Community School Corp., as English is the corporation's third elementary school in five years — Milltown in 2006 and Leavenworth in 2009 — to receive the honor.

That isn't good enough, however, Dr. Mark Eastridge, the corporation's superintendent and an English High School alum, said. The goal must be for each of Crawford County's schools to be excelling, he explained.

Eastridge said the corporation is on the right track, evidenced not only by three Blue Ribbon schools, but also recent news that an outside review team has recommended it receive district accreditation at the highest level. He pointed to a newspaper that quoted the team's chair as describing Crawford County's efforts to educate its students as "awe- inspiring and breathtaking."

"Wow. What higher complement could be paid to our school district?" he asked, adding that "it's great to be from Crawford County, and it's great to be a graduate from English."

Eastridge wasn't the only English High School graduate to speak. Charlotte Lucas, a member of the Class of 1968 who, in the 1980s, founded Lucas Oil Products with her husband, Forrest, opened her remarks by congratulating the school's current students, who, along with staff, were decked out in commemorative English Raider red T-shirts.

"I want to tell you how proud I, as a graduate of English, am of you," she said.

Lucas, who noted that two of her granddaughters attended Milltown when it received the Blue Ribbon award, said the national honor is proof that hard work pays off.

"So, in my mind, if there's something you want, just work for it just like this," she said.

Lucas told the students how she was involved in almost every extracurricular activity, from cheerleading to the National Honor Society, while in high school and that she loved every minute of it. She encouraged them also to take advantage of their opportunities.

EES kindergarten students Bobby Welch and Mackenzie Menke lead the pledge of allegiance with the help of Ade, as Eastridge and Bennett join along.
Lucas said that also means working to help those around them.

"You always have to remember there's always going to be responsibility with any success you have," she said, urging them to remember their friends and family, as well as community, state and country.

"Each and every one of you has the ability to do great things, and great things doesn't (necessarily) mean finding a cure for cancer," she said. "There are a lot (of) great things that can be done."

Lucas encouraged the students to work together, reminding them they can accomplish more as a team, but noted that they all are unique and should apply their best effort in whatever they do. She added that no matter what else they do in life, they will always share a common bond.

"You can always look back and say I was part of the team that became a Blue Ribbon School in 2011," she said.

Just as he did when Leavenworth had its Blue Ribbon celebration, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett also spoke. He said there are a lot of places in the state doing great things educationally but none more so than Crawford County.

"There is not a greater place in Indiana than Crawford County and what you're doing today," he said, noting how tremendous it is for the county to have three Blue Ribbon schools in five years.

What sets Crawford County apart from other school corporations, Bennett said, is the understanding by everyone involved, from teachers to support staff to parents, that they are accountable for the students' education.

"For some reason, here in Crawford County, adults take responsibility for making sure students learn," he said.

Bennett said that he has been criticized for not saying enough good things about teachers, in general.

"Well, I'm here to tell you I can't say enough good things about the staff here at English Elementary School," he said.

Bennett told the students that he doesn't doubt that among them will come a future Lucas, teacher, doctor or lawyer.

"And it doesn't happen just because you scored well on a test. That's how we measure," he said. "It happens because you learned."

Bennett presented school officials with a seal recognizing English as a Blue Ribbon School as well as a plaque inscribed by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. He also presented a road sign declaring English's Blue Ribbon status.

"As superintendent of the state of Indiana — I want you to hear this, because I mean this from the bottom of my heart — I wish all schools and all children were like English," Bennett said. "I wish all adults took ownership for the success of their children. And, kids, I wish all kids worked as hard as you."

The celebration also featured Boy Scouts who attend English presenting the colors, kindergarten students Bobby Welch and Mackenzie Menke leading the pledge of allegiance and sixth-graders Kaitlyn Knight and Elizabeth Vandersteen reading essays they wrote about what it means to attend English Elementary.

Following the program, guests were invited to stay for a special lunch.

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