Exceptional work and exceptional effort typically gets exceptional recognition and a DeSoto County school celebrated that exceptional recognition Monday as a National Blue Ribbon School.
Center Hill High School welcomed Mississippi State Department of Education Supt. Dr. Carey Wright and other dignitaries to be part of a ceremony in front of the school building to get that recognition. It was not the first time Wright had been in the Center Hill attendance zone for such an event, she said.
“In 2017, I had the pleasure of visiting Center Hill Elementary during our ‘Celebration of Excellence Tour’ for all of our ‘A’ rated school districts,” Wright said. “Then in 2018, I was visiting Center Hill Middle School for its National Blue Ribbon Award, and today I have the honor of being here at Center Hill High to recognize you for your National Blue Ribbon celebration.”
Being a National Blue Ribbon School is a major achievement in the educational world and it doesn’t come very easily.
The program began during the Reagan administration under then-Secretary of Education Terrel Bell. It was meant to bring public attention to the best schools in the United States and to facilitate communication and sharing of best practices within and among schools.
The U.S. Department of Education receives nominations for the award from each state education department and examines the nominations on specific criteria to make its selections. Only the top schools “make the grade,” so to speak. Forty-seven states take part in the program along with schools under the Department of Defense Education Activity. Those states that do not take part in the program are in Utah, Vermont, and Oregon. Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Bureau of Indian Affairs schools also do not participate.
“In Mississippi, Center Hill High School is one of only four Blue Ribbon schools this year, and it is the only high school in Mississippi with this recognition,” Wright said. “Nationally, Center Hill High is only one of 58 public or private high schools to earn the Blue Ribbon status. And for 2020, Center Hill High is only one of 367 Blue Ribbon schools in the entire United States. There are roughly 130,000 schools inside the United States, so this means that Center Hill High School is in the top .3 percent of all schools in the country.”
Center Hill was recognized as an “Exemplary High Performing” school, meaning it has among the state’s highest high school graduation rates and has the highest achieving students in the top 15 percent in English and mathematics, measured by state assessments.
“They look at graduation rates, ACT performance, statewide assessments, the whole community,” Wright said. “They’ll also look at extracurricular activities and how many students are involved in Advanced Placement, dual credit and dual enrollment.”
The other three Mississippi schools to be given the Blue Ribbon Award this year were D’Iberville Elementary School, Madison Station Elementary School in Madison, and Popps Ferry Elementary School in Biloxi.
Center Hill principal Doug Payne looks to the dedication of his instructors for making the achievement found on “The Hill” possible.
“They sacrifice their needs and put the kids’ needs first and that shows,” Payne said. “It’s not about test scores. It’s about the whole child and what we can do. While they’re here, we try to teach them everything we can. We want them to leave here prepared for the workforce, prepared for a career or college.”
In his remarks, DeSoto County Schools Supt. Cory Uselton expressed his congratulations to the Center Hill community.
“Whenever I think of mottos for our schools I always think of Center Hill and ‘Respect the Hill,’” Uselton said. “It’s great to see Center Hill respected, not only statewide but nationally, as well. We’re so proud of our students, our teachers, faculty and staff at Center Hill for all that you’ve done to help with that.”
More on the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program is found on its official website.