Naperville's May Watts School creates culture where children thrive

When May Watts Elementary School in Naperville was named a National Blue Ribbon School earlier this fall, many parents and teachers hugged Principal Brian LeCrone to thank him for leading the school to academic excellence.

But LeCrone was quick to correct them.

“I'd tell them, ‘You're thanking me, but we really should be thanking each other,'” LeCrone said. “The biggest reason we've earned this distinction is because this school has achieved highly for many years, and I think that's a reflection of the people standing in front of the kids each day. This is really an award earned by the kids, the teachers and our whole community.”

The U.S. Department of Education named May Watts among 335 National Blue Ribbon Schools — including five in DuPage County — for 2015 based on academic excellence.

The school is the fifth in Indian Prairie Unit District 204 to achieve the national honor. Previous schools to earn the distinction are White Eagle and Fry elementary schools and Crone and Gregory middle schools.

May Watts — along with 284 other public and 50 private schools — will be honored in ceremonies Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 9 and 10, in Washington, D.C.

Like schools throughout Illinois, May Watts has faced the challenge of implementing the new Common Core curriculum, which has changed how many subjects are taught. The school also accommodates about 20 percent of students who are English language learners, as well as another 13 percent who transfer into or out of the school during an academic year, according to its 2014-15 Illinois Report Card.

With these concerns in mind, both staff and teachers alike have made May Watts a place where children thrive, LeCrone said.

“We've achieved highly regardless of leaders or changing demographics throughout the years, and we have a great culture that allows kids to have a place to be safe and learn,” he said.

The trick to achieving this, LeCrone says, is the school community's ability to collaborate and communicate effectively. That includes teachers, assistants, administrative staff and even volunteers and the Parent Teacher Association.

“You can't have a good school without people who care about kids. That's just a given,” LeCrone said. “We have teachers who go to their basketball games or encourage them at other events outside of the classroom. But we also bond well as a staff. And we are truly a community school that works to make everyone feel welcome — that means culturally, professionally and academically.”

  At May Watts, 20 percent of students are English language learners, making the job of English language learner program teacher Carrie Pedersen critical to their success. Daniel White/
  English language learner program teacher Carrie Pedersen, above, co-teaches third grade with Emily Macchiarella at May Watts Elementary School in Naperville. May Watts is one of five DuPage County schools to win recognition as a National Blue Ribbon School. Daniel White/
  The May Watts English language learner program creates opportunities for students like Owen Sweeney, from left, Kritita Samal and Srihan Vege to work together in small groups. The program is among the reasons May Watts is being celebrated by the U.S. Department of Education as a National Blue Ribbon School. Daniel White/

About this series

Five DuPage County schools recently were named National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education and will be honored Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 9-10, in Washington, D.C.

Today we conclude our celebration of the schools by looking at what makes May Watts Elementary in Indian Prairie Unit District 204 stand out. We began the series by featuring <a href="">Longfellow Elementary</a> in Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200, <a href="">Meadow Glens Elementary</a> in Naperville Unit District 203, <a href="">Emerson Elementary</a> in District 200 and <a href="">Butler Junior High</a> in Oak Brook Elementary District 53.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.