Seven archdiocesan schools win national Blue Ribbons

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
October 11, 2018

Students and faculty at St. Francis de Sales School in Lake Zurich celebrate their second Blue Ribbon award on Oct. 5. The students in the first row are holding signs that say, “We won our 2nd Blue Ribbon.” (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Seven archdiocesan elementary schools learned that they had been 2018 Blue Ribbon schools by the U.S. Department of Education, bringing the total number of Blue Ribbons bestowed on archdiocesan schools since the program’s 1982 beginning to 102.

That’s the most Blue Ribbons awarded to any school system, private or public, in the country. Thirty schools have been recognized in the last five years.

“I am continually amazed at the quality and vibrancy of our Catholic schools,” said Jim Rigg, superintendent of Catholics Schools. “The criteria for a Blue Ribbon Award are incredibly rigorous. Schools must not only demonstrate that they are academically excellent, but that they offer a breadth of enriching programs that serve different types of learners. The fact that we have so many Blue Ribbon Awards, both this year and historically, bespeaks the strength of Catholic education in the archdiocese. I couldn’t be more proud of our schools.”

This year’s awards went to Cardinal Joseph Bernardin Elementary School, Orland Hills; Queen of All Saints School, 6230 N. Lemont Ave.; Sacred Heart School, Winnetka; St. Bede School, Ingleside; St. Francis de Sales School, Lake Zurich; St. Francis Xavier School, Wilmette; and St. Therese Chinese Catholic School, 247 W. 23rd St.

They were among 349 schools to be recognized nationally.

All seven schools were recognized under the category of “Exemplary High Performing Schools,” meaning the schools are among the state’s highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests. Five of them have earned the honor before: Cardinal Joseph Bernardin (2008), Queen of All Saints (2008), St. Francis de Sales (2007), St. Francis Xavier (2012) and St. Therese (2011).  

Mary Iannucilli, principal at Cardinal Joseph Bernardin School, said the award recognizes the efforts of the entire school community.

“It’s an award for the staff and students and especially our families who support Catholic education,” said Iannucilli, who has been at the school for 11 years.

It recognizes the school’s commitment to educating “the whole child, intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically” and to continued improvement, she said.

In recent years, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin has increased its emphasis on service, with a monthly project benefitting Port Ministries on the South Side in addition to other efforts, and now has Chromebooks for each student.

This year, it was able to renovate the library and media center, including an update of the broadcast room, from which students read the daily announcements, she said.

Kristina Reyes, principal at Queen of All Saints, said her school emphasizes building on a strong curriculum and foundation in its Catholic faith.

“Queen of All Saints has a long tradition of embracing a strong core curriculum coupled with our vigor to introduce new methods of learning ensure that we educate our children with a mindful view of the world and their place within it,” she said.

“The administration, teachers, staff, students and families believe that, with Catholic teaching as its foundation, we create an environment where all are valued and encouraged to strive for success in their academic, social, service-oriented and extracurricular endeavors.”

Lisa Deborah Oi, principal at St. Therese School, said the Blue Ribbon recognizes that the school “strives for academic excellence in a nurturing, caring environment.”

Oi became principal this year after serving as a teacher and assistant principal at St. Therese since 1997.

Located in the heart of Chinatown, the school’s enrollment is 70 percent Asian and it offers multi-lingual education in Spanish and Mandarin. Students take accelerated math classes, with middle school students working at a high school level.

While those things set the school apart, she said, what makes the school most special “is based on our patron, St. Therese. Everything we do, we do with love.”

That means teachers get to know not only the students but also their families — “parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles” – from the time they enter preschool at 3 years old to the time they graduate from eighth grade.

“Because of that, they are able to address all the needs of the student,” she said.


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  • blue ribbon award

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