The selection will not be official until the U. S. Department of Education and the Alabama State Department of Education make their announcements in September. Akin learned of the award from state officials last week.
The 335-student school is the only public school in Calhoun County to receive the distinction in the 29 years since the award has been given according to a list available on the the U.S. Department of Education’s website. The Donoho School, a private K-12 school in Anniston, was named a Blue Ribbon winner in 2005. Only 17 Alabama high schools have ever received the award.
The Blue Ribbon program recognizes private and public elementary, middle and high schools that are either high achieving or have narrowing achievement gaps.
Piedmont received the award because it has consistently scored well in the state’s adequate yearly progress measurements, or AYP, Akin said. He said the award, although given to the high school, is a reflection of the work done at all three schools in the district.
“You don’t earn Blue Ribbon status at the high school without having that foundation at the elementary and middle school. So although it’s a high school award, to me it’s a community award. It just further validates everything that this community puts into their school district,” Akin said.
Akin recalled a conversation about such recognition with a school board member shortly after he became superintendent.
“One of his conversations with me was about how my goal should be to earn national recognition. And what he meant was to be good enough to earn national recognition. Because if you’re being recognized as being a Blue Ribbon School, then that means you’re doing what’s absolutely best for kids,” Akin said.
The school district is headed into its third year of an initiative to provide a computer for each student, a program school administrators say has transformed the educational experience for the district’s 1,275 students.
Piedmont High School principal Jerry Snow said that for his teachers, the award shows “that all the things they’ve done to help their students become successful, us going to a one-to-one laptop initiative and all the training to be on the cutting edge. It all pays off.”
Piedmont school board member Bruce Adderhold credits the teaching staff and students hard work, and said there is more work left to be done.
"Nothing's easy. Getting to this point is part of it, but staying at this level and exceeding it is the next challenge," Adderhold said. "We've got to work together to pursue those goals. Now we've got the model to get to that level, so we need to apply that to the elementary and middle schools."
The Alabama Department of Education must nominate a school to be selected for the award.
According to the U.S. Department of Education’s website, slightly more than 6,000 of the nation’s 138,000 schools have earned Blue Ribbons since 1982.
Piedmont Mayor Brian Young said the award shows the investment the city has made in the schools is paying off, and it could mean a boost in population for the town.
“I think it’s a good model to follow. Invest in something that is going to reward you,” Young said. “I think we’ve been very fortunate in being reward from the commitment the city’s schools. We’re a smaller town, but if you move here, we’ll provide you child with a great education.”
Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @burkhalter_star.