Pineville Named National Blue Ribbon School

Pineville Elementary Named National Blue Ribbon School

(Harrison County, MS)  Harrison County School District is proud to announce a third school in the district has earned one of the most prestigious academic distinctions in the nation.  On September 26, the U.S. Department of Education named Pineville Elementary a 2019 National Blue Ribbon School.  The big news sent waves of excitement throughout the school and across the small community.

 Pineville Elementary Classroom

“When we found out we were National Blue Ribbon, everybody was dancing in the hallway, excited. It was awesome!” said Ashley Hicks, fifth & sixth grade ELA/social studies teacher.

“I was over the moon. It was so incredible!” said Suzanne Valdez, who teaches fifth & sixth grade math and science.

Pineville was among 362 schools that were selected for the coveted National Blue Ribbon Award. Those schools have demonstrated consistent academic excellence and made progress in closing gaps in student achievement.  The program is part of an effort by the U.S. Department of Education to identify effective school leadership and promising instructional practices. 

 Pineville Elementary Group Photo

“There are over 800 schools in Mississippi and Pineville is one of only three in the entire state,” HCSD Superintendent Roy Gill announced during a school assembly.

“We were so happy and honored to have been nominated and then to have been chosen.  The faculty and staff at Pineville are dedicated to education and they expect the best from their students, and students rise to those high expectations,” said Pineville Elementary Principal Laura Ditcharo.  “The Harrison County School District is committed to providing a quality education and academic excellence; Pineville Elementary School is proud to uphold this commitment!”

Pineville Elementary Students 

Pineville Elementary has maintained its A ranking, and is currently ranked #6 in the state.  Pineville is ranked #4 in the state in fifth grade ELA, and #10 in the state in sixth grade ELA. 

“I think one of the keys to our successes here is our love for children and willing to do whatever it takes to make sure each child is successful. It’s not just the child that’s easy to reach, but those difficult children. We go out of our way to make those connections,” said Hicks.

Pineville Elementary has also excelled in math.  The school is ranked #2 in the state in fifth grade math, and #3 in the state in sixth grade math.

Pineville School Sign

“We worked very, very hard, as a faculty, staff, students. It took all of us.  It took a team.  We definitely build relationships here, and I think that is key in what we are,” said Valdez.

Pineville has shown significant growth over the years, and has maintained a high percentage of students who performed Proficient and Advanced on the Mississippi Academic Assessment Program.  In 2017-18, the percentage of Pineville students who achieved proficient and advanced levels in math jumped from 79% to 81% in 2018-19.  In ELA, the percentage of Pineville students who were proficient and advanced also increased from 73% in 2017-18 to 74% last year.

Laura Ditcharo & Christine Parks

“The teachers are always redirecting. They’re always making sure that the students are having a great understanding of the materials.  If not, they adjust so that everyone can be successful,” said Pineville Elementary Instructional Literacy Coach Christine Parks.

About 150 students in Grades K-6th are enrolled at Pineville Elementary.  Teachers focus on each student’s strengths and weaknesses, and help guide them in the right direction. 

“They look at the whole child and make decisions based on the data.  They’re very data driven here, and it just confirms and reaffirms that they’re doing the right thing for children,” said Ditcharo.

Teachers say the culture at Pineville has always been about teamwork, family, and setting high expectations.  When students step up to meet or exceed those expectations, it builds a higher-performing class.

“It’s incredible, awesome! We’ll put Pineville on the map!” said Valdez in describing what this national honor means to the school.

“It’s been a community school for many, many years, and some of our teachers are actually previous students of our school. So, it’s carrying the tradition of excellence in the school,” said Parks. “We have community members who are very active with the school. They donate their time. They donate supplies to the school. So, this just means their efforts are really paying off.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the U.S. Department of Education will recognize Pineville Elementary and the other 2019 school honorees during an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., on November 14-15, 2019.  National Blue Ribbon Schools will serve as a model for schools that are aiming for excellence.

“When we get the seal on the wall, we will be able to say, ‘We did it! We’re here. We actually accomplished this,’” said Hicks. “Everyone on this campus is united. Everyone knows the importance of education and our children.  It truly is something to be celebrated.”

“Congratulations on a job well done!” said Gill.

The Harrison County School District has two other Blue Ribbon Schools:  D’Iberville Elementary (2009) and Saucier Elementary (2012).

You can watch the WLOX story here:

You can read the Sun Herald article here: