The students of Eisenhower Academy in Joliet gathered in the school gym for “some special news” from Washington D.C., Theresa Rouse, superintendent of District 86 in Joliet said she told them.
“They gasped and got excited,” Rouse said.
The news, announced on Sept. 16, was that U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona announced that Eisenhower Academy was named a 2022 National Blue Ribbon School.
The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program, which was created in 1982, “to bring public attention to the best schools in the United States and to facilitate communication and sharing of best practices within and among schools,” according to the National Blue Ribbon School Program website.
Only 297 schools in the country receive this honor, Rouse said. Chelsea Intermediate School in Frankfort is the only other Blue Ribbon School in Will County for 2022, according to the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program website.
So, naturally Eisenhower Academy celebrated.
“We had fun on Friday,” Rouse said. “We had music playing, we had blue cupcakes and we had these confetti guns ready to go.”
Eisenhower Academy was also named a National Blue Ribbon School in 2016, Rouse’s first year at Joliet Public Schools District 86, Rouse said. The school will receive another plaque and another Blue Ribbon flag to fly outside the school, as the first one has weather-related wear, Rouse said.
Eisenhower principal Nicole Bottigliero said the Illinois State Board of Education nominates schools for the National Blue Ribbon Recognition. Eisenhower Academy was nominated as an Exemplary High Performing School, District 86 said.
School officials must then complete a comprehensive application to apply for the award, Bottigliero said. Although a school’s academic achievement leads ISBE to nominate a school, the application covers many areas of students’ educational experiences, Bottigliero said.
Some of these areas include attendance percentages and how schools promote attendance, social emotional activities, outside activities and how families are involved and strategies to help all students reach their full potentials, Bottigliero said.
She said staff regularly look at and dissect the school’s data, meet in groups to address areas that need improvement and then make “those instructional moves.”
“Among our staff, as well as our families, there is a lot of community building and a lot of support,” Bottigliero said.
Staff also set goals with the students, too, Bottigliero said.
“Our students know where they’re at, where they need to get to and know the tools we will provide to get them there,” Bottigliero said.
Rouse said the “exceptional” instruction Eisenhower Academy students received from their “quality teachers and support staff” is why Eisenhower was named a National Blue Ribbon school again. Several schools in District 86 are also “very close” to the possibility of being nominated as a National Blue Ribbon school, Rouse added.
Bottigliero and a teacher will attend the two-day awards ceremony on Nov. 3 and Nov. 4 in Washington, D.C. Eisenhower Academy, Rouse said.
Representatives from Frankfort School District 157-C and Chelsea Intermediate school will also attend the ceremony, according to a news release from Frankfort School District 157-C.
Chelsea Intermediate School students and staff are planning a celebration and will be recognized at the October board of education meeting, according to the Frankfort School District 157-C.
Eisenhower Academy will host a community school celebration at 12:30 p.m. Nov. 15, on the grounds of Eisenhower Academy, where the new flag will be hoisted, Rouse said. The public is invited.
“But we won’t do confetti,” Rouse said.