National Blue Ribbon School
There was a stir of excitement in the classrooms of Central Elementary on Sept. 24 when Principal Mike Gelmi announced over the PA system that the U.S. Department of Education named the school a 2020 National Blue Ribbon School. Students leapt to their feet and gave their teachers a standing ovation.
This coveted award affirms the hard work of educators, families, and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content. This year, 317 public schools and 50 private schools across the nation earned the award.
The Education Department named Central an Exemplary High-Performing School because it is among Michigan's highest performing schools, as measured by state assessments and nationally normed tests in English and math.
Central was nominated by a top official with the Michigan Department of Education.
The school follows best practices, but of course it's about more than using correct instructional strategies. Principal Gelmi describes the building as a family, with staff supporting each other and celebrating the positives throughout the year. "This award was made possible by our tremendous, hardworking staff," he said. "They got here because they do what's best for kids."
Teachers are intentional yet flexible in their teaching. "Our staff has built an understanding that every year is different, as each year the kids are different, and we adjust our instruction based on what student data shows," Gelmi said. He credits this approach, along with understanding the social and emotional needs of students, as the secret to their success. Teachers feel empowered to adjust their plans and support any child who walks through their door.
He also says the student population is like a family, with both staff and older students helping and supporting the younger students. Sixth-grader Evan Mann agrees. "I've loved Central ever since I was 2-1/2 years old going to daycare here," Evan said. "All of the teachers and staff care about each individual student. The size of the school really lets you get to know one another."
Parents keep an open line of communication with the school, too. "Our families are very supportive of our school, teachers, and overall school community," Gelmi said.
Central Elementary is immortalized with the rest of the winners on the National Blue Ribbon Schools website and in the U.S. Department of Education's video announcement below. The school will also receive a plaque and flag in the mail. Due to COVID-19, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Awards Ceremony will be held virtually Nov. 12 and 13. The school will hold its own assembly for staff and students as soon as COVID restrictions allow for larger gatherings.