Wilmette’s was recognized as one of 269 "Blue Ribbon Schools" by the U.S. Department of Education last Friday.
The award is granted yearly to schools around the country that demonstrate academic excellence or make great strides in improving student achievement. St. Francis Xavier, 808 Linden Ave., was recognized in the first category, as “an exemplary high performing school.”
““It’s a great honor for the students, the teachers and the parents of the students here at St. Francis,” said St. Francis Xavier Principal Daniel McKenna. “I get to see, on a daily basis, how much effort the students put into their learning and how dedicated the faculty is. So it’s a great honor for us and we’re very happy for everybody.”
Founded in 1910, St. Francis Xavier was one of 50 private schools selected nationwide. It is the first time the school has received or applied for a Blue Ribbon award.
“Schools honored with the National Blue Ribbon Schools award are committed to accelerating student achievement and preparing students for success in college and careers,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a press release. “Their work reflects the conviction that every child has promise and that education is the surest pathway to a strong, secure future."
The selection process for Blue Ribbon Schools begins with nominations from the top education officials in each state and from The Council for American Private Education (CAPE). St. Francis Xavier was one of more than 100 schools that submitted applications to CAPE.
In his application, McKenna stressed the school's rich culture, "values based atmosphere", technilogical rigor, high academic performance and tight-knit community.
During a Tuesday conversation, McKenna praised those who helped put together the lengthy application.
“We had a community of faculty and parents who put in a lot of hours to get this application competed,” McKenna said. “And the application process highlighted one of the strengths of St. Francis, which is a great relationship and collegiality between parents and faculty members.”
Though St. Francis Xavier is a Wilmette-based school, its student body comprises children from Evanston, Glenview, Kenilworth, Winnetka and Highland Park, as well.
McKenna said the school, which spans pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, has grown from 267 students in 2008 to 412 at the beginning of this school year.