Blue Ribbon Award - Glen Oaks Elementary School

Glen Oaks School named winner of national Blue Ribbon Schools Award.
Collaboration is a word that comes up often in North Palos District 117. It is used to describe relationships, especially those between teachers, administrators, principals, staff, students and parents.

It’s also being praised as major reason Glen Oaks School was honored recently by being named a recipient of the prestigious Blue Ribbon Schools Award from the United States Department of Education. This is the first Blue Ribbon Award the district has ever received.

In learning of the award, Glen Oaks School Principal Gaylyn Grimm deflected individual praise and credited her entire staff. “It truly was a collaborative effort, a team effort,” said Grimm, who is entering her sixth year as principal at the second through fifth grade school in Hickory Hills. “This is a great honor, and one in which we will enjoy for a short time before we get back to work providing the top-quality education all our students deserve.”

Grimm and veteran teacher Debbie Olejarz will travel to Washington, D.C. later this fall to accept the award on behalf of Glen Oaks School.

The national recognition honors and brings public attention to the best schools in the country and recognizes those schools whose students thrive and excel. It coincides with a standard of excellence set at Glen Oaks School and throughout the district’s other four schools. That excellence is the result of holding teachers, students and administrators to higher standards.

In District 117, data is used to adapt teaching and learning to support every student. Mutual respect and trust permeate the district to create a culture of collaboration.

For the last 30 years, the U.S. Department of Education has sought out schools where students attain and maintain high academic goals. To be named a Blue Ribbon School is to join an elite group. Of the nearly 140,000 schools in the U.S., just over 6,000 schools have received this honor.

All schools nominated for the award must qualify as either (1) high performing – schools in their states measured by state tests in both reading and math or (2) improvement to high levels – schools that have at least 40 percent of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds and have improved student performance to high levels in reading and math on state assessments.

Glen Oaks received the 2012 Blue Ribbon Schools Award based on its high performance, although 50.4 percent of Glen Oaks’ students receive free or reduced lunches and come from homes technically identified as disadvantaged. In spite of that label, students at Glen Oaks scored an average of 95.3 percent in reading and 98.9 in math on the Illinois Standardized Achievement Test.

In addition to winning the Blue Ribbon Award, Glen Oaks and Oak Ridge schools also were named winners of the coveted Academic Excellence Awards for the last three and four years, respectively. Based on standardized test scores, the Academic Excellence Awards are the highest award the state can bestow on a school.

Shuwan Chiu, a statistician and principal consultant with the Illinois State Board of Education, said District 117 joined an elite group by wining the award.

“It means you are one of the best schools in the state of Illinois,” said Chiu, who said she personally nominated 16 elementary and high schools in the state. “Winning the Blue Ribbon Award means that Glen Oaks is an outstanding school and one that will be held as a model for academic achievement not just in Illinois but across the nation.”

Chiu said the process to nominate schools for an award begins in December and goes through April. She said the state uses three to five years of assessment data and schools must be in the top 10 percent in the state in reading and math scores while showing “outstanding and continued growth.”

Chiu said she then submits a list of schools to the U.S. Department of Education, which has committees that vet all proposals from the individual states. “You have to be the best,” she said.

District 117 Supt. Jeannie Stachowiak said the entire community shares the award.

“North Palos District 117 is an amazing community,” she said. “We have wonderful students, supportive parents, dedicated employees and a Board of Education that truly supports teaching and learning.

“We believe in the importance of always seeking out ways to continuously improve what we do for the sake of our students,” Stachowiak said. “We are proud of our high achievement and the awards we have received because these things confirm that we are doing our jobs – we are doing what is best for our kids. That is why we are here.”


Glen Oaks' students flash the 'No. 1' sign after being named a Blue Ribbon School.
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