NEW BUFFALO — New Buffalo Elementary School was named a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education in the fall of 2020, and the honor was celebrated in person during an Aug. 31 back-to-school night.

Principal Adam Bowen opened a ceremony in the NBES Gymnasium by noting that all of the rules and regulations related to the COVID pandemic prevented students, staff and parents from being able to gather and recognize the milestone achievement.

“On September 24th, 2020, New Buffalo Elementary was named a National Blue Ribbon Exemplary High-Performing School … one out of 367 schools in the nation to receive this award. Only 15 schools from Michigan were recognized for this accomplishment last year,” he said.

Bowen said the award was made possible by “a lot of people who deeply care about kids – especially our teaching staff.”

“Also it’s taken several years of initiatives, implementation with fidelity, hard work, stress, professional development, changes in our approach of teaching, focusing on student engagement, and the want to be the best that there is,” he said.

Bowen said an achievement of this magnitude is a community effort that encompasses the whole district.

“It starts with our bus drivers who bring the children in the morning, they set the tone for a positive start to the day. When the kids pull up to the school, they pull up to a building and grounds that are in immaculate shape.The custodial and maintenance staff put in a lot of time, effort and pride to make sure NBES in the best learning environment for our children.”

Bowen said paraprofessionals and the guidance counselor often greet pupils when the arrive in the building, while Deputy Troop is outside making sure everybody is safe.

“Kids are fed breakfast and lunch from our cafeteria staff to fuel their minds,” he said.

Bowen said top-notch technology is supplied by the tech department, the secretary staff is always there for students and staff during and after school, also mentioning the award-winning BASE after-school program.

“The teachers, Title 1, counselor and paraprofessionals are the most dedicated individuals and servants to children,” he said. “Each one of these professionals knows the exact information a child needs in order to advance their learning.”

Bowen said the school’s well-balanced Pre-K program not only focuses on academic needs, but social skills as well. Pupils also are involved in art, physical education, Spanish, library class and more.

“We’re able to offer a well-balanced program that allows to succeed in the areas outside the classroom, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

Bowen said five years ago when he took in the principalship, Superintendent Dr. Jeff Leslie “really pushed us to focus on student growth.” He also thanked the Board of Education, the business, office, and the PTO for their continued support.

Bowen said the Blue Ribbon honor would not have been possible without support “from the best families” and the teaching staff “that puts on countless hours to provide the highest quality of education to our students.”

Teacher and NBAS Association representative Kristi Pinette said the teachers, support staff and administration are working together to “bring out the best in out students.”

She said the Blue Ribbon award is an acknowledgment “that we’re dong great things, and that our community is better because of what we do.”

Pinette said she doesn’t know of very many schools where teachers are instructing the grandchildren of former students or where teachers and administrators supervise children on the very playground where they once played.

Noting that she lives across the street from the school (where her children attended), Pinette said “the school playground was an extension of our yard, my colleagues are, and still are, an extension of my family.”

She said those colleagues are at the school “because they love our students and care deeply about our community.”

“My grandmother used to say ‘Remember who you are and where you came from.’ Let us truly celebrate who we are, what we stand for, and the good that has come from this. Let this award be the inspiration for what we can become,” she concluded.

New Buffalo Area Schools Board of Education President Charles Heit congratulated everyone at the Elementary School for their hard work and dedication, noting that his father was principal of the school for 30 years.

“I’m just glad that the national Blue Ribbon Committee recognized something that we’ve known for a long time – we have an excellent elementary school.”

State Senator Kim LaSata congratulated New Buffalo Elementary for receiving the honor, noting that she was a fifth-grade teacher at Lake Michigan Catholic.

“Being a teacher was the best job I ever had,” she said.

Leslie said there are 130,000 schools in this country, and New Buffalo Elementary was one of only 367 schools to earn the Blue Ribbon distinction.

Leslie said he often visits the classrooms at the Elementary School, and is always impressed by the amazing teachers and incredible staff members.

He also thanked the PTO for supporting the teachers in so many ways, along with organizations that contribute to the school’s success such as The Pokagon Fund, the Harbor Country Rotary Club and the New Buffalo Lions Club and Harbor Country Hikers.

Also named 2020 Exemplary High Performing National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education were Bridgman Elementary and Bridgman High School. Superintendent Shane Peters noted last fall that Bridgman Public Schools was the only district that had two schools chosen

New Buffalo High School was a 2019 National Blue Ribbon School selection.

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