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Two Madison County schools take the blue ribbon

By By Thomas Tingle and Tracy Brady
For the Record
Liberty Middle School in Madison and Buckhorn High School in Madison County have been honored with a Blue Ribbon Schools award by the U.S. Department of Education.
The award is the most prestigious honor for K-12 school in the country. This year, secondary schools earned the distinction for excellence in leadership, curriculum and instruction, student achievement, parental involvement and community support. Liberty Middle School and Buckhorn High School are the only two schools in Alabama to receive the recognition.
Each school prepared an extensive written nomination package representing a thorough self-evaluation. Information gathered during site visits by the USDE representatives factored into the final determination.
"Becoming a Blue Ribbon School is not easy," said Dr. Mary Jane Caylor, state board of education member who represents District 8. "It involves assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the respective schools and developing improvement plans for the future.
"We started putting together our self evaluation last year, but we really didn't get into it until last August," said Sally Bruer, principal at Liberty Middle School. "Liberty Middle School was built in 1990. We had an enrollment during the 2001-2002 academic year of 822 students and we are expecting just under 900 for the upcoming academic year."
Bruer said Liberty Middle School will keep the distinction as a Blue Ribbon School forever, but they won't be able to reapply for the distinction for another five years. Bruer has been the principal at Liberty Middle School for four years. She served as an assistant principal there for three years.
"The award gives the school and students a tremendous sense of pride," Buckhorn principal Tommy Ledbetter said. "The students at Buckhorn are great and each class impresses me more each year."
Ledbetter has been Buckhorn's principal for 20 years.
Buckhorn High School was established in 1958 and has a current enrollment of 840 students with 52 certified staff members. Ledbetter said the strongest elements in the evaluation that may have lead to the award were the school's central focus on the Alabama Reading Initiative at the high school level and the fact that more than 80 percent of the student body is active in one or more extracurricular activities.
Caylor said staff, students and parents of Liberty Middle School and Buckhorn High School are to be commended for its commitment to reaching the high standards of becoming a national Blue Ribbon School.
Members of the USDE National Review Panel look for overall school quality, including challenging standards and curriculum, excellent teaching, and ongoing professional development.
Evidence of a safe and supportive school environment, family and community partnerships and high or improved student academic achievement also is considered in the selection process.
Blue Ribbon Schools will be honored this fall at a national recognition ceremony in Washington, D.C.

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