By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — It was all cheers when students at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School learned their school was recognized among the top ones in the United States.
During an assembly Sept. 15, Principal Julie Delaney told the students that because they do their homework, do well on their Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) and work hard the school is recognized as a National Blue Ribbon school. “Because of your efforts, we are one of the best schools in America,” she said. Cheers and applause erupted.
St. Paul the Apostle is one of only seven schools out of 1,633 in Iowa and one of 304 schools out of 132,656 nationwide to achieve Blue Ribbon status this year. Less than 1 percent of schools nationwide were chosen for the award.
Prior to the assembly, Delaney wasn’t sure how the students would react and whether they would understand the significance of this achievement for the school. Their response in the school gym made it clear they understood. She told the students she was glad they realized the importance of the award and asked them to thank their parents for choosing St. Paul the Apostle and to applaud the teachers who helped make this happen.
Following the assembly Father Michael Spiekermeier, pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Parish, said, “This is big and exciting. I am proud of our school.”
Superintendent of Catholic Schools Lee Morrison said, “We are incredibly proud to have St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School, one of our own diocesan Catholic schools, selected as a Blue Ribbon school.
“Our diocesan promise is to provide a bright future for the many students who have chosen Catholic education. The standard of excellence set and now recognized at St. Paul’s will help us deliver on that promise. The staff at St. Paul is to be commended for this prestigious honor.”
In November Delaney and St. Paul teacher Lynn Leming will travel to Washington, D.C., to receive the award. After their return, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad will visit the school to congratulate everyone. Former principals, school superintendents and others are being invited to attend the ceremony.
Delaney said excellence in education at St. Paul the Apostle began in 1926 when the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary founded the school. Dedicated faculty members are key to the continued success as well and involvement by parents, she noted. Enrollment for K-8 is 450 students and for preschool, 79 students. They receive an excellent education while also learning about the Catholic faith, Delaney pointed out. “Faith in First Place is our theme for the year. We teach the students about stewardship and giving back to God.”
St. Paul the Apostle submitted an application to the Council for American Private Education (CAPE) to be considered for the award. Extensive paperwork, data and essay responses on a variety of topics were required with the submission, including ITBS scores, financial information, curriculum, instructional methods and professional development. CAPE reviewed applications submitted by all private K-12 schools in the U.S. and forwarded St. Paul’s application to the national level.
“This award belongs not only to the current students, faculty and parents, but to the many who came before us and established the standard for excellence in faith-based education,” Delaney said. “Over the years, we have always said at St. Paul’s we are ‘Learning to love and loving to learn.’ That still is our motto.”
Delaney knew for about a week that the school had made it to the final round, but she was waiting for official confirmation before ordering banners and other items she hoped to get prior to the assembly. The students were excited to learn that because of their hard work they did not have to wear uniforms Sept. 16. And following the assembly, they were treated to cookies with blue icing.