Topsham school celebrates national award

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TOPSHAM — Dec. 13 was a banner day for a “Blue Ribbon” school.

Past and present school administrators, town and legislative officials, and a slew of teachers and students converged in the Williams-Cone School gym to celebrate the school being one of 236 public schools in the country, and the only one in Maine, to be named a 2013 National Blue Ribbon School.

From a lecturn overlooking a sea of faces, Williams-Cone Principal Randa Rineer praised the school’s elementary-age students.

“Boys and girls, this award is a tribute to you, and to all of your hard work,” she said.

The U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon School program honors public and private schools whose students achieve at significantly high levels or have made major progress and closed gaps in achievement, particularly among minority and disadvantaged students.

Although slated to attend, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, was unable to make the event. But she sent along a video message congratulating the school, as well as her special projects director, Sara Holmbom Lund, who presented Rineer with a U.S. Senate proclamation that honored the school for earning the award.

“To be named a Blue Ribbon school is a tremendous honor,” Collins said in the video. “You should be very proud that out of nearly 100,000 public schools in America, Williams-Cone is one of just 236 to achieve this prestigious award this year.”

The U.S. DOE honored Williams-Cone and the other Blue Ribbon schools last month in Washington, D.C.

The Maine Department of Education announced program nominees – which also included Longfellow Elementary School in Portland and Yarmouth Elementary School – last December.

Williams-Cone has students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

According to a press release from the Maine DOE, 81 percent of students at the school met the proficiency level or greater on the state’s reading assessment in the 2011-12 school year, up from 66 percent in 2007-08. In math, 77 percent hit that standard, also up from 66 percent.

Third-grade students who scored higher than proficient in math rose from 26 percent in 2007-08 to 51 percent in 2011-12. In reading, the improvement during that time was from 3 percent to 37 percent.

On top of that, the school earned an “A” in the Maine DOE’s School Performance Grading System.

“The Williams-Cone School is committed to high student achievement and has the results to prove it,” Maine Deputy Education Commissioner Jim Rier said in a September press release. “This blue ribbon is just the latest well-deserved recognition for this school that is continuously improving because of its dedication to supporting the success of every child, no matter their challenges.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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Sara Holmbom Lund, at right, special projects director for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, presents a Senate proclamation Dec. 13 honoring Williams-Cone School in Topsham for being named a 2013 National Blue Ribbon School. Williams Cone Principal Randa Rineer accepts the award. Looking on from left are Dan Chuhta, assistant superintendent of School Administrative District 75; SAD 75 Superintendent Bradley Smith, and former Williams Cone principals Otis Thompson and Steve Ciembroniewicz.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.