WINDSOR – Just days after Patricia Martin, principal of St. Gabriel School, returned from Washington, D.C., with the plaque signifying the school’s Blue Ribbon status, it was party time at the school. (Click here to visit Photo Gallery.)Archdiocesan officials, state and local representatives and community supporters gathered at the school on Nov. 21 to bestow accolades on the faculty and students, whose test scores made St. Gabriel eligible for the prestigious award. St. Gabriel students in grades three through seven scored in the 90th percentile or better on a nationally recognized standardized test.
"This great honor bestowed on our wonderful school community is especially appreciated, as it is our mission to provide a strong moral, spiritual and academic foundation which enables [students] to reach their highest potential," said Mrs. Martin. "High test scores are only a part of the success in nurturing and educating each student as a respected individual."
Mrs. Martin expressed gratitude to all who helped to make the award possible,
"The unrivaled dedication of our teachers and staff makes learning a priority, keeps expectations high, and makes a difference in each student’s life. Supportive parents who are committed and involved; our parish pastor, Father Richard Neumann; and the entire parish community, all helped to make the award possible," said Mrs. Martin.
She also thanked the school’s students, "who try their best every day and are the reason we love to come to school."
Students shared their perspectives on the award through prose and poetry, and also introduced guest speakers, who each shared congratulatory remarks and inspiring messages.
Dale R. Hoyt, superintendent of archdiocesan schools, said, "The National Blue Ribbon program recognizes public and nonpublic elementary, middle and secondary schools where students achieve at a very high level and/or where the achievement gap is narrowing. The program sets standards of excellence for all schools striving for the highest level of achievement."
This year, 304 schools were recognized as Blue Ribbon Schools. Of those, 49 were private schools; and of those 49, 46 of the Blue Ribbon Schools are Catholic schools, he said.
"St Gabriel School is the only private school in New England to win this award, this year," said Mr. Hoyt.
"For 55 years, St. Gabriel School has provided strong spiritual values and a rich nurturing environment, where students can develop socially and spiritually as well as academically," he said. "It is a place to learn, play, love and pray."
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal described the Blue Ribbon Award as a tribute to the St. Gabriel School community. "It is a magnificent recognition of hard work and persistence. In a way, you beat the odds, not only in raising the bar but also closing the gap, making sure everybody has opportunity to be truly excellent in their education"
"I’m going to be bragging about St. Gabriel when I go back, [to Washington]." he said. I’m going to be talking on the floor of the Senate of the United States about St. Gabriel’s."
State Rep. David Baram (D-Bloomfield and Windsor) also spoke, and presented a citation that was introduced in the General Assembly that recognizes the school for its achievement.
The assembly stood and applauded when Archbishop Henry J. Mansell approached the podium. The Archbishop, who recently returned from Rome, said, "I not only told the Holy Father, but I told all the bishops of New England about the great work that St. Gabriel School has accomplished."
He described the Blue Ribbon award as a "tremendous achievement" and noted student performance on national tests. "You perform so beautifully in language arts, in math, in science, [and] in social studies. In many cases you perform two grade levels higher than your own grade. That’s phenomenal."
"The world doesn’t know that. But the Holy Father now knows that. And the Bishops of New England know it."
"You show [the] tremendous spirit that you have; uniting yourself to God by doing so well, caring for one another but also showing your future leadership. For that we congratulate you, your parents, teachers, the administration and all the parish for making possible the wonder that is St. Gabriel School," he said.
Archbishop Mansell mentioned studies by several well-known research universities, noting a Harvard study that found that Catholic School do so very well because they operate as a family.
"Here you are: students, teachers, faculty, principal, pastor, parochial vicar and also parents and grandparents. We are all in this together," he said. "Making sure that you are leaders of the future."
Mrs. Martin said that despite all the praise and excitement, this achievement is, in a way, just a beginning.
"We are thankful for this recognition and we do plan on repeating this level of achievement. It’s just important to maintain this high level of excellence," she said.