If anyone wants to know how Townsend Elementary School is performing, all principal Dr. John Dalton has to do is point at the flagpole.
On the pole is a flag declaring Townsend Elementary School as a 2010 Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. Twelve individuals representing the school traveled to Washington, D.C., recently to accept a plaque and flag. The ceremony honored 304 schools from across the United States.
Townsend has ten grade-level teachers, five teacher assistants and eight more who work in special areas such as art, music and physical education, plus the principal and a staff of eight.
Dalton said the 12 on the trip included teachers and staff from the school, a retired teacher, a student, a parent and a grandparent. Fifth grade teacher Deanne Stallions brought husband Don Stallions, Townsend Volunteer Fire Department chief, and their son Will and made it a family event. “On a vote of the entire staff there, they recommended that Will go with me to receive the plaque,” Dalton said. “He was the only student in 304 schools represented there to be part of receiving the award, so that was special.”
Dalton said the way the process works is each state can nominate a number of schools each year based on percentages of students in the state. “The State Department of Education makes nominations,” Dalton explained. “They are looking at improved schools and high achieving schools. We were lucky enough to be selected as one of six schools in the state last year, which we found out early in the fall of 2009,” he said.
Dalton said there was an application process due at the first of the year, and the school had to meet Annual Yearly Progress at the end of last year. “In addition, we had to meet the benchmarks set by state and federal government and last year’s test scores were using the new version of TCAP that is based on the new standards, so it was even tougher,” he said. “I was more pleased with being able to meet AYP (Annual Yearly Progress) because that meant our teachers did a good job of teaching the new standards, and our kids did a good job of learning.”
Dalton said the staff didn’t find out the students had met Annual Yearly Progress until after school started this academic year. “We found out we made it, and our invitation for the ceremony is Washington was extended after we found out, so we started making plans,” he said. “(Blount County School superintendent) Mr. Britt was very kind. He asked who was going to go and I said, ‘As many as I can manage?’ He said yes, if I could get it covered. So we had 12 staff members who went, including myself.”
Back at the school, things ran smoothly in part because in addition to eight substitute teachers, Dalton had someone he trusted working in his place - his father, former Maryville City Schools director Dr. Mike Dalton, who also brought along his wife, Linda.
“My mom and dad filled in to help us out, and I think dad and mom really enjoyed that,” John Dalton said.
The group went up on Saturday, Nov. 13, and returned on Tuesday, Nov. 16. “We had a great trip. On Monday, Rebecca Forster, who works with Congressman Duncan, took us on a tour of the Capitol, and we split up and did as much in Washington as we possibly could,” he said.
Dalton and Will received the 2010 Blue Ribbon School of Excellence during the Blue Ribbon Schools Program. Back home, the school celebrated on Thursday, Nov. 18.
“We had a ceremony with the kids yesterday,” Dalton said on Friday, Nov. 19. “ We gathered around the flagpole and put the flag up the pole for first time. It has been a great week.”
Dalton said a reception is set for 3:30 to 5 p.m. Dec 7. They are inviting the entire community, Blount County School board members and former staff members who worked here at Townsend. “We’re asking everyone to come celebrate our award. We’ll have slide show of all our videos and pictures taken during the trip, and we’ll let everyone come in and be part and celebrate this award with us,” he said.