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3 DODEA schools win National Blue Ribbon award for academic excellence

By MATTHEW M. BURKE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 23, 2017

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Three Department of Defense Education Activity schools — including one on Okinawa and another in Germany — have been selected as National Blue Ribbon winners for academic excellence.

The Department of Education chose Edward C. Killin Elementary at Camp Foster, Okinawa; Patch Middle School at U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, Germany; and West Point Elementary School at U.S. Army Garrison West Point, N.Y., for the honor out of more than 100,000 public, private and charter schools.

The award — given to only 342 U.S. schools — recognizes overall academic excellence or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups, a DODEA statement said.

Administrators from the winning schools will travel to Washington, D.C., for a ceremony in November.

Killin — the first Blue Ribbon school on Okinawa since 1996 — placed in the top 15th percentile on standardized tests in English/language arts, math, science and social studies during the 2015-16 school year to earn the honor, school officials said.

Killin celebrated with a special ceremony in the cafeteria on Friday. Students waved blue pom-poms, sang songs and read essays about why their school stands out.

“It’s a very big honor,” said Killin assistant principal Jennifer Sears, who served as acting principal last school year after the retirement of principal Cindy Templeton. “We had a lot of people who contributed to the success of this, especially with our teachers who were working with those students that were graded on those assessments and all of the specialists and all of our community members, too, that pitched in.”

At the ceremony, Brig. Gen. Paul Rock Jr., commander of Marine Corps Installations Pacific, told the students they are “all very special.”

“It cannot be easy to go so far away from the United States and set up here and do well,” said Rock, who also commands Camp Smedley D. Butler.

After the ceremony, teachers and administrators enjoyed blue punch and cupcakes topped with blue icing and discussed their accomplishment.

“It feels really great to know that all the hard work that all the teachers in the school put in with all of our students paid off,” said math teacher Melanie Horton. “The staff has always been dedicated; they’ve always gone that extra mile for students. They get together; they collaborate to make sure that every student succeeds.”

They also applauded Killin’s students for their emotional intelligence.

“We have a very kind population of students,” Sears said. “They are very giving; they are very sharing; they help one another and you don’t normally see that all the time in public schools. We are very fortunate to have that here … our kids are amazing.”

New Killin principal Kendra White said the school will not rest on its laurels.

“There’s always things we can do better,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of great things, but let’s get us outstanding.”

burke.matt@stripes.com

Students at Edward C. Killin Elementary School at Camp Foster, Okinawa, celebrate being named a National Blue Ribbon School for 2017 by the Department of Education, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017.
MATTHEW BURKE/STARS AND STRIPES

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