Washington named Blue Ribbon School

When the students at Washington Elementary gathered in the gym for a school assembly Monday morning, they didn't know exactly what was going on, but they knew something important was happening by the big smiles on the faces of their teachers.

"As your principal I couldn't be more excited," Anne Marie Covey told the students. "I'm going to try not to get emotional, but oh my goodness, the work that has gone into this - your teachers, your parents, and all of you have worked so hard to make this happen. And I couldn't be more proud of the work that you do every day."

At the assembly, Covey announced to all the students, school staff, and visitors from Sweetwater County School District No. 2 that Washington Elementary was named a 2022 National Blue Ribbon School.

The US Department of Education National Blue Ribbon Schools Award is given to "exemplary, high-performing schools" across the nation. This year, 297 schools were named part of the 39th Cohort of National Blue Ribbon Schools. Washington was one of only two schools in Wyoming to receive the designation this year, and only the second school in Green River to ever be named a Blue Ribbon School.

"It's a remarkable achievement, and it's a rare achievement," SCSD No. 2 Superintendent Craig Barringer said. "It doesn't happen very often. So the fact that it's happened twice in Green River says a lot about the quality of education."

While appreciating the significance of this award, Barringer said he isn't surprised Washington has received the recognition, or that Covey, who is an "outstanding leader," has been honored with this award not long after being named Wyoming's Distinguished Principal of the Year.

"When you walk in the building, there's positive energy as soon as you come in," Barringer said of Washington.

"I am just so excited and so proud and just honored and humbled by this," Covey said about the Blue Ribbon designation. "I couldn't be more excited for my staff. They're the ones who are in the trenches working and doing this hard work each and every day. . . What they're doing is making a difference and to be recognized at that national level is just phenomenal. And I know it's still sinking in with all of them."

Covey said the staff will have more opportunities to celebrate the achievement together, along with families and community members.

"They're a critical part of this too, our families and our community," Covey said. "We couldn't do it without them either. It really is a big group effort here."

The group effort that led to receiving the designation includes not only the hard work that goes into every day, but also the process school staff members went through to become a Blue Ribbon School. It started when Washington was nominated for the award by the Wyoming Department of Education. Then the leadership team at the school had to go through a "length application process," according to Covey, which they put together in the spring. Covey was notified Washington was selected last week, and the official announcement of the Blue Ribbon Schools was released by U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona last Friday.

"I applaud all the honorees for the 2022 National Blue Ribbon Schools Award for creating vibrant, welcoming, and affirming school communities where students can learn, grow, reach their potential, and achieve their dreams," Secretary Cardona said in a press release. "As our country continues to recover from the pandemic, we know that our future will only be as strong as the education we provide to all of our children. Blue Ribbon Schools have gone above and beyond to keep students healthy and safe while meeting their academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs. These schools show what is possible to make an enduring, positive difference in students' lives."

"A National Blue Ribbon School flag gracing a school's entryway or on a flagpole is a widely recognized symbol of exemplary teaching and learning," the press release said.

"It's a very prestigious award and we're very honored and proud to have that symbol and be a part of the National Blue Ribbon Schools," Covey said. "I'm just very humbled and honored to be recognized and very proud to represent Washington Elementary, Green River, and the state of Wyoming."

When it comes to representing on a national level, Covey said the recognition shows the quality of local education.

"It says there's great things happening in our Green River schools," she said. "Sweetwater Two is an amazing district to work for. They care about our kids, care about their staff and our families, and I'm just fortunate and very blessed to be here working."

While recovering from the difficulties of the pandemic has presented challenges for all schools, Washington included, Covey said the staff focuses on taking care of wellness and social-emotional needs, making sure everyone feels safe and cared for with their needs met so they can learn and grow - both students and staff. And having strong relationships holds everything else together.

"Those are the powerful pieces that allow us to then do the amazing academic work in our classrooms and grow kids and push kids to achieve their highest potential," Covey said.


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