Worcester Earns 9th Blue Ribbon

BERLIN — Worcester County’s highly decorated public school system added another feather to its cap this week when state school officials named Pocomoke Elementary School (PES) a Maryland Blue Ribbon School of Excellence.

With the formal announcement on Tuesday, Pocomoke Elementary joins eight other Worcester County public schools that have received the prestigious award. Nine of the 12 public schools eligible for the honor in Worcester have now earned Blue Ribbon status, representing the highest concentration in the state.

The Blue Ribbon Schools Program is a state and national initiative that recognizes high-performance schools as measured by the Maryland School Assessments (MSA). Other Blue Ribbon schools are selected for being the highest-achieving schools in the state despite being economically disadvantaged. In Pocomoke Elementary’s case, the school met both requirements.

The public elementary school serves 400 students in pre-kindergarten through third grade, 66 percent of which qualify for free and reduced meals (FARMS) under state standards. However, the high percentage of students living at or below the poverty line did not prevent the school excelling on the most recent MSA exams as 100 percent of the students were deemed proficient or advanced in math, while over 97 percent were proficient or advanced in reading.

“Poverty may mean that we need additional resources to address barriers to learning, such as hunger, but poverty is independent of intelligence and the desire to learn,” said Principal Todd Hall this week. “We believe that each child can and will succeed. I am elated for our teachers and staff because this recognition affirms that their approach to students and learning works.”

The list of accolades for PES is extensive. Earlier this year, the school was named a National Distinguished Title I School, for example. Of the 412 Title I schools in Maryland, PES was one of only two in the state to receive the national recognition.

Superintendent Dr. Jon Andes said this week the accolade reflects the emphasis on student achievement prevalent throughout the school system.

“Seventy-five percent of our eligible schools are Maryland Blue Ribbon Schools,” he said. “That’s phenomenal. This achievement reinforces that our formula for success gets results. We have the best people in our classrooms and schools, maintain small class sizes, provide the programs, services and instructional materials that our students need and have outstanding leadership.”