John M. Clayton beats the odds, wins national award

Just three Delaware schools were named 2014 National Blue Ribbon Schools, including Frankford’s own John M. Clayton Elementary School. JMC, Lake Forest North Elementary and the Academy of Dover charter school and are among the 337 schools that will be officially honored in November in Washington, D.C.

The award honors public and private elementary, middle and high schools whose students achieve at very high levels or have made significant improvements in students’ levels of achievement or who have beat the odds.

“I believe the staff is phenomenal. They work together as a team. Their goal is to make sure all students are successful,” said Principal Charlynn “Char” Hopkins. “The students work very hard. We set high expectations, and the students rise to those expectations.”

The Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes schools in one of two performance categories.

JMC was named an “Exemplary High Performing School,” ranking high on state tests. Student “subgroup” performance was also extraordinary, such as special education, low-income and minority students.

“All children can succeed. We truly believe that,’ Hopkins said. “It can be done with those schools that are, so to speak, ‘not supposed to achieve.’”

“The dedication of these talented educators is without compare,” Indian River School District Superintendent Susan Bunting wrote. “My heartfelt congratulations go to the entire John M. Clayton community on this prestigious national honor.”

The second category for Blue Ribbon schools is “Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools,” for closing achievement gaps between those subgroups and all students over the past five years.

“We are a high-performing school,” Hopkins said. “We really did not have a gap. All of our students are performing high.”

Despite having large percentages of minority and economically-disadvantaged students, JMC has consistently performed well on state assessments, according to the IRSD. The percentage of African-American and Hispanic students at JMC who met performance standards in math and reading has consistently exceeded the state average.

“John M. Clayton Elementary has set an exemplary example for public schools across the country,” Bunting wrote. “Each year, its teachers and staff work tirelessly to make sure that students facing a variety of ethnic and economic challenges receive a quality education.”

This is the second time that John M. Clayton Elementary (formerly Frankford Elementary) has received the national honor. It also won the award in 2004. Overall, it is the Indian River School District’s eighth National Blue Ribbon Award since 2001.

Hopkins was also principal at Long Neck Elementary School when it won Blue Ribbon recognition in 2005 and 2011.

The district’s other Blue Ribbon Award winners are East Millsboro Elementary (2008), North Georgetown Elementary (2006), Phillip C. Showell Elementary (2003) and Lord Baltimore Elementary (2001).

“Congratulations to these schools and the educators, students, families and communities that have helped them succeed,” Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy said. “They are examples of what can be done to improve educational experiences for our children.”

A total of 420 schools nationwide may be nominated, including those in the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and Department of Defense Education Activity schools and Bureau of Indian Education schools.