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2017 Awards Ceremony

The 2017 National Blue Ribbon Schools Awards ceremony brought nearly 1,000 administrators and teachers together for a two-day meeting of celebration and connection. Ceremony videos and transcripts are available below.

Ceremony Highlights

Ceremony Award Photos

“When You Know Better, You Do Better”: Diane Watkins and Stephanie Johnson

Photo of Johnson and Watkins
Stephanie D. B. Johnson (L) and Diane C. Watkins drew on years of leadership in Chesapeake Public Schools to highlight ways to deal with difficult staff members sensitively yet effectively.

The duo (yes, they sing) of former principals Diane Watkins and Stephanie Johnson presented a funny yet serious talk on dealing with demanding, blaming, and otherwise unpleasant people. Through slides and video clips they outlined their taxonomy of the Top 10 Difficult Types of school people and emphasized the importance of confronting negativity quickly.They offered two mnemonics to keep the confrontation helpful and kind. When giving feedback, they suggested GIVES: Growth-oriented, Instructionally sound, Valuing strengths and preserving dignity, Evidence-based, and of appropriate Scope. Their related mnemonic for kindness was GIFT, or the ability to respond positively to everyone, even those one doesn’t care for. “Do you have the GIFT?” they stressed.  

Participants praised the humor the two used to make their points. Among the many practical tips the two offered, two highly popular ones, based on participant “exit tickets, were:

  • Take and prominently display a “Family Photo”—an image of the entire staffinently
  • Consider the impact of “the face in the mirror”–the principal him or herself– as a positive or negative force in school life.

Access Watkins and Johnson’s PowerPoint slides here.

Life After National Blue Ribbon: Dr. Sheila Harrity

Photo of Sheila Harrity
Dr. Sheila Harrity followed her success in transforming one Massachusetts technical high school by assuming leadership of another. Both are now state and national models of excellence.

Dr. Sheila Harrity, 2013 National High School Principal of the Year for her leadership of Worcester (MA) Technical High School, a 2013 National Blue Ribbon School, shared her post-National Blue Ribbon School Award experience. It was a time to set new challenges, she recalled, to ask, “What’s next?”

Today the Superintendent-Director of Montachusett  Regional Vocational Technical School (Fitchburg, MA) and a member of the state Board of Education, Dr. Harrity described the challenges and obstacles she overcame to take on new leadership roles.

Participants left the session inspired and motivated, they noted. Specific actions they identified as “next steps” for them included

  • Stay true to students’ interests and needs.
  • Think big, persevere, and take risks: “Never be content.”
  • Build partnerships with local businesses, institutions of higher education, and other stakeholders to access resources and increase visibility: “Always ask.”
  • Stay positive, compassionate; Rise “above the muck.”

Access Dr. Harrity’s PowerPoint slides here.

Photo of people in a workshop
Participants at a workshop on home-school partnerships reviewed research and discussed best practices.

Sarah Hughes, a Senior Research Associate from RMC Research, facilitated an interactive roundtable on home-school partnerships, from challenges to effective strategies.

Participants valued the opportunity to hear from and exchange ideas with other school representatives in structured format. Specific ideas noted by participants include: 

  • Use social media to engage families and feature positive school messages.
  • Be proactive rather than reactive.
  • Hold regular grade-level family nights.
  • Create smaller, more inviting opportunities to engage families and build relationships.
  • Channel families’ strengths, assets, and talents–move from a deficit to an asset focus.
  • Have students lead conferences.
  • Conduct formative family-student-school conference early to set goals and reach agreement on how to achieve them.
  • Think carefully and often about who is missing and how they can be involved.

Access the session PowerPoint here.

Annette Jones Photo
Annette Jones and Gabrielle Gallagher of NCEA and principal Victor Pellechia (Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Ellicott City, MD) tapped their experience as principals for strategies to attract attention and resources to NBRS schools.

Annette Jones, Assistant Director of Leadership Development, and Gabrielle Gallagher, Assistant Director of Marketing Communications, both of the National Catholic Education Association, were joined by Victor Pellechia, principal of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, to share strategies for making the most of the prestigious National Blue Ribbon School recognition. Drawing on first-hand experiences, they offered ideas for celebrating the honor-–within the school and with the local community, the state, and international audiences-–as well as guides for developing marketing action plans.

Participants reported finding the session helpful and “eye-opening.” Key take-aways include:

  • Keep all messaging consistent.
  • Use the NBRS “brand”on school materials, the website, and social media.
  • Incorporate NBRS in naming events.
  • Involve local businesses, community organizations, parents, public officials, and media in celebrating the award.
  • Thank everyone involved in the school’s achievement–teachers, staff members, parents, current and previous students, and local stakeholders.

Access the presentation PowerPoint here.