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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

No Blue Ribbon for Fort Thomas Schools This Year... Because They've Earned (Almost) All They Can Already

Last Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Education announced the 2013 cohort of National Blue Ribbon Award winners. In Northern Kentucky, only two schools received the award this year: Mann Elementary of the Boone County School District and Beechwood HS of Beechwood Independent.

Fort Thomas Independent was absent from this year's award-winners, but that might be because all but one of the district's schools already sit among the winners.

Woodfill Elementary most recently earned Blue Ribbon status in 2011, while Ruth Moyer Elementary received the award in 2009, Highlands HS in 2007, and Johnson Elementary back in 1997. Once a school receives the Blue Ribbon Award, it remains a Blue Ribbon Award-winning school permanently.

The National Blue Ribbon Award, given out annually by the U.S. Department of Education since 1982, recognizes public and private schools that demonstrate a very high level of achievement or improvement in performance or facilities. Performance-based awards are measured by state assessments in reading and mathematics, while improvement-based awards are reserved for schools with at least 40 percent of their students coming from disadvantaged backgrounds.

\While there is no financial incentive to winning a Blue Ribbon, educators look at the award as a chance to receive national recognition and validation for their work. "The Blue Ribbon is a mark of excellence in education," explains Ginger Webb, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, Fort Thomas Independent Schools. "For example, I am only aware of two public high schools in Kentucky that have received this honor -- Highlands and, most recently, Beechwood."

For Webb, though, FTI's Blue Ribbon track record is less a testament to any specific educational strategy and more a tribute to the culture of learning Fort Thomas inherently provides as a whole. "It is about doing what we do very well and providing each student with the best educational experience possible," she says. "We have fantastic teachers and staff, wonderful students, and amazing support from our parents and community."

Historically, award-winning schools become models for other schools throughout the nation, and school personnel are often sought out as mentors. According to HHS English Department Chair Chuck Keller, Fort Thomas Independent teachers frequently engage in formal and informal kinds of mentorship. "Many of us have worked with schools around the state," Keller says, "Some have done site visits to see what sets us apart."

The only school in the district yet to receive Blue Ribbon status is Highlands Middle School, and the district is not alone. According to available Dept. of Education data, Kentucky brags  zero public middle schools awarded the Blue Ribbon.

Webb is ready to change that. "We are hoping to be the first within a few years!" she says.

With this track record, it's safe to say no one will be surprised if Fort Thomas Independent brings home another Kentucky first.


  1. Highlands earned the Blue Ribbon Award in the early 1980s.

  2. Last week I received my children's K-Prep reports which prompted me to look at the for more information and I came across the state report cards. As I was looking at the district report card and comparing just our 3 grade schools I found it very interesting just the discrepancies in the spending on our students in the 3 schools. Woodfill and Johnson both have ~350 students and spend ~$8k per student. Moyer has ~530 students and spends ~$6k per student. Woodfill's and Johnson's scores have gone up, but Moyer's have decreased. Is it due to overcrowding and less resources per student at Moyer? Why isn't the funding at the same level across all three schools?