Cullman Middle School earns Blue Ribbon Lighthouse Award

Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune

Cullman Middle School (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN – Cullman Middle School (CMS) has earned the Blue Ribbon Lighthouse Award from Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence, Inc. (BRSE).

CMS Principal Lane Hill told The Tribune, “Last year, toward the end of the school year, we invited the BRSE people to come into our school.  The reason that I wanted to have somebody to come in, I wanted somebody to come in and take an objective look at what we were doing in our school, and maybe provide us some opportunity or some suggestions for improvement in things that we need maybe to adjust.

“And so I knew that it would be an opportunity for us to have either affirmation–that the things that we were doing were correct and we were doing things the right way–or it would be that we would need to adjust some of the things we were doing.

“Mostly what we got was affirmation that we’re headed in the right direction and doing things the right way.”

CMS announced that it had received the Lighthouse Award Tuesday. According to the BRSE’s website, “The BRSE Blueprint for Excellence is designed to be a positive school improvement process that covers nine major categories of critical performance elements found in excellent schools.”  Those nine categories are: Student Focus and Support; School Organization and Culture; Challenging Standards and Curriculum; Active Teaching and Learning; Technology Integration; Professional Community; Leadership and Educational Vitality; School, Family, and Community Partnerships; and Indicators of Success

According to the BRSE: “The Blue Ribbon Lighthouse School Award is a recognition program for schools of excellence and is not designed as a typical application process. Schools are identified and selected for this award based on achievement of excellent performance in all nine major categories of the Blueprint for Excellence assessment. Schools achieving excellence in less than nine categories could be eligible for the ‘Points of Light’ Award or recognition as an Aspiring School. Schools will be notified of their status soon after completion of the assessment process and honored in an awards ceremony at the annual Blue Ribbon Schools Blueprint for Excellence Conference in December. These awards are given at the sole discretion of the BRSE.

“An assessment does not imply or guarantee award eligibility. In fact, a school often implements improvement strategies to move from Aspiring School, to Points of Light School, Blue Ribbon Beacon School and then to Blue Ribbon Lighthouse School.”

In order to receive a Lighthouse Award, a school must exceed the established standard in all nine of the listed categories, a process which usually takes place over the course of multiple school years.  For a school to have already exceeded the standards when it first enters the BRSE program is uncommon.

Said Hill, “We were able to exceed standards on all nine and get Lighthouse, which says a lot about our faculty, our staff, our students, our parents at the school, just the whole school community.  And so we’re very proud; I’m very proud of our teachers for what they do.  I’m telling you, I believe we’ve got the best faculty anywhere.  I’d put them up against anybody in the country, the things that we’ve got going on in our school.

“This is a great group of caring teachers who set high standards for our kids.  And, like I said, getting this award the first time is just a testament to that.  I’m proud of them.  I’m honored to serve as their principal.” 

Hill wanted to be sure his students were recognized as well, saying, “They don’t cause many problems or anything like that, and for the most part they do exactly what we expect them to do.  And that’s a testament to them and the parents that they have.”

CMS joins East Elementary School, Fairview Middle School and Parkside School as the Cullman area’s Lighthouse Schools. Cullman-area Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence Beacon Schools include Good Hope Primary School and West Point Intermediate School. Cullman-area Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence Points of Light Schools include Good Hope Middle School and Vinemont Middle School.

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