District 48's Swartz School celebrates Blue Ribbon award

A few technical difficulties couldn't stop teachers and students at Stella May Swartz School in Oakbrook Terrace from cheering and dancing Tuesday to celebrate their designation as a Blue Ribbon School.

"I'm just bursting with pride," Principal Angie Ross said. "We make it an environment they want to come to ... They want to please their teachers and they want to please me. I love these kids and they know it."

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced more than 330 schools nationwide have earned the designation, including more than a dozen in Illinois.

The honor is based on a school's overall academic excellence or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.

Other DuPage County that captured Blue Ribbon honors are Brook Forest Elementary in Oak Brook, Park View Elementary in Lombard and Oak Elementary in Hinsdale.

A live video of Duncan's speech was supposed to be the highlight of the assembly at Swartz, but there were problems trying to play it on a projector.

As the children waited in hopes of hearing the message, they raised their hands and said what they thought Duncan would say to them. Some said they thought he would tell them he was proud of Swartz while others said he would say they worked very hard and deserved the honor.

Shirley Jones, regional coordinator for family engagement for the U.S. Department of Education, presented the school with a Blue Ribbon certificate. She told the students their principal will travel to Washington, D.C., in November to be recognized and receive a plaque and flag.

"You are models and I want to emphasize that," Jones said to the attentive students, many dressed in blue outfits. "Encourage your friends, encourage your family, everyone, that it is really cool to be smart. And you're smart and the world is looking at you."

Salt Creek Elementary District 48 school board member Terry Aubry-Garrett said because the district includes children from Oak Brook, Oakbrook Terrace, Elmhurst and Villa Park it creates a "different sense of community." As a parent, she said she loves the diverse atmosphere and teachers.

"Angie Ross is phenomenal," she said. "She's a superwoman. She cares, she's a mom, she's an educator."

The Title I school, which serves students in second through fourth grade, offers a variety of opportunities, including a writer's club, Earthsavers club and drama club.

All students participate in physical education each day, music instruction three times a week and art instruction once a week.

"We hope this kind of validates what we've been saying all along," school board President Dane Cuny said. "We really strive to do an excellent job and we're very proud of this award."

  Stella May Swartz School Principal Angie Ross dances with students after receiving a Blue Ribbon certificate from the U.S. Department of Education, honoring the school for its academic performance. Mark Black/
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