2015 Ceremony Puts National Blue Ribbon Schools on the Map!

color guard
Eastern High Scool Color Guard (Washington, DC) opened the awards ceremony.
sharing best practices
School representatives sat in school grade level groups to discuss how they met challenges at their schools.
private school meeting
Private school leaders convened to share best practices.
teachers talking
Roundtable discussions invited participants to talk about equity, leadership, mindsets, and teacher leadership.
Aba Kumi
NBRS Director Aba Kumi kept the ceremony joyful.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Twitter feed followed the 2015 Annual Awards Ceremony of the 2015 National Blue Ribbon Schools closely, retweeting more than 30 photographs and sound bites throughout the two-day ceremony.

Highlights of the ceremony included the awards presentation, collegial network opportunities, and inspiring speakers. Ary Amerikaner, USED, opened the proceedings with a keynote address on opportunity and equity, noting that National Blue Ribbon Schools represent a wide range of configurations, income levels, and student populations, and demonstrate that “every type of school” can get great results. Sheila Harrity, former principal of the 2013 National Blue Ribbon Worcester Technical High School and herself a 2013 Terrell Bell awardee and National Principal of the Year, described how forging strong community relations was key to Worcester’s success. Today as the superintendent of Montachusetts Regional Technical Vocational School (Fitchburg, MA), she called on attendees to consider “what is your next?”

Networking and information-sharing opportunities included “Crowd-Sourcing Best Practices,” on meeting school challenges, and roundtable discussions featuring leadership, learning mindsets, equitable education access, and teacher leadership.

Speakers included Acting Secretary of Education John L. King, National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples (Palo Duro High School, Amarillo, TX), education consultant and former principal Baruti Kafele, and education consultant and 2011 Superintendent of the Year Marcus Johnson. Dr. King spoke about USED priorities for the coming months, such as the redesign of the No Child Left Behind Act; he also took questions from participants. Shanna Peeples described how reading and writing helped her escape difficult circumstances and how she empowers her own students through practicing both. Principal Kafele asked the assembled, “What is your signature move” as a school leader or teacher, and stressed the need to help students see and create positive futures. Marc Johnson encouraged participants to “be the light” for others, reminding them that “there’s no place on our path for ‘good enough’.”

ary amerikaner

Ary Amerikaner, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Strategic Initiatives and Policy

sheila harrity

Sheila Harrity, Superintendent, Montachusetts Regional Voc Tech School (MA) and 2013 Bell awardee.

marcus johnson

Marcus Johnson, Co-Director, Central Valley Educational Leadership Institute, Fresno State U.

baruti kafele

Baruti Kafele, Author, Consultant

John B. King

John B. King, , Jr., Senior Advisor Delegated Duties of Deputy Secretary of Education









The ceremony honored seven outstanding principals with the Terrel H. Bell award: Dr. Jon Cerny, Bancroft-Rosalie Elementary (Bancroft, NE), Dr. Edna Coia, Francis J. Varieur Elementary (Pawtucket, RI), Rosalba De Hoyos, Achieve Early College High School (McAllen, TX), James Heater, Esther F. Garrison School of the Arts (Savannah, GA), Heidi Smith, Frank L. Huff Elementary (Mountain View, CA), Irma Trosclair, South Crowley Elementary (Crowley, LA), and Janell Uerkwitz, Murdock Elementary (Lafayette, IN).

Photos courtesy of Paul Wood, U.S. Department of Education.

Awards Photos Are Now Online

2015 awardees


Watch Secretary Duncan’s announcement.