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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, September 18, 2008
One of 320 nationwide
By Melissa Hale-Spencer
GUILDERLAND Westmere Elementary School is a place where students last year made words into art in a room-sized installation on good manners, where they also spontaneously created a moving memorial after their beloved librarian died, and where this year they performed rap songs they had composed with peers in an inner-city school.
This week, Westmere received national recognition as a Blue Ribbon School.
The school board on Tuesday night applauded Westmere Principal Deborah Drumm twice as the honor was announced. She’ll travel to Washington, D.C. next month with fifth-grade teacher Todd Giagni to accept the award and attend workshops with other Blue Ribbon Schools across the country.
“We’re very pleased to represent Guilderland,” said Drumm.
“We’re on a roll here; I like this,” said Superintendent John McGuire.
He was referring to last year’s designation of Altamont Elementary School as a Blue Ribbon School.
This year, Westmere is one of 20 schools in New York and one of 320 schools nationwide to receive the designation. The announcement was made last Friday by Margaret Spellings, the United States Secretary of Education.
“Your school is a national model of excellence,” McGuire read from her letter to applause on Tuesday night.
Each state can nominate schools that are “dramatically improving,” or, like Westmere, in the top 10 percent of all schools in the state based on test scores, according to the federal Department of Education. The application, compiled by all the teachers at Westmere after the State Education Department nominated the school, took three months to complete.
Built in 1953, Westmere is one of five elementary schools in the suburban Guilderland district. At the time of the application, Westmere had 466 students in kindergarten through fifth grade, with a fifth of its students non-white and 4 percent with limited English proficiency, representing languages such as Korean, Chinese, Mongolian, Arabic, Albanian, Malayalam, Tagalog, and Urdu. At that time, 47 Westmere students had special needs, ranging from autism and learning disabilities to speech and language impairment.
The staff consists of 39 teachers, 19 teaching assistants, and three support staff members.
The federal No Child Left Behind law, of which the Blue Ribbon program is a part, requires states to administer tests in English and math; New York tests students in third through eighth grade. Fourth-graders are also tested in science and fifth-graders in social studies.
Last year, 85 percent of the students in third, fourth, and fifth grades at Westmere met or exceeded state standards in English and 96 percent met or exceeded state standards in math. Also, 98 percent of the fourth-graders met or exceeded state standards for science and all of the fifth-graders met or exceeded the standards for social studies.
“We are thrilled to have been recognized with this honor,” Drumm said in a release from the district. “This award is truly a symbol of our community and of all the hard work that our dedicated staff members, students, and parents put in together each and every day to make our school a successful place.”