There are awards … and then there are awards.
Last week, the Cheshire School District received word that one of its schools, Norton Elementary, had received not just any old honor, but one of the most prestigious possible when it comes to public education. Indeed, even those with only a passing interest in education have likely heard of the National Blue Ribbon School designation, given how important a recognition it is.
In one sense, it is a shame that this honor came during the COVID-19 pandemic. Such an announcement was deserving of all the pomp and circumstance that normally comes with the award. It would have been nice if the Cheshire School District could have celebrated with all teachers, students and parents, bringing a community of education together.
However, the more subdued ceremony held last week, with a limited number of people in attendance and all adhering to the health and safety protocols to which we have become so accustomed over the last several months, does nothing to diminish this accomplishment. Whether celebrated in front of a boisterous auditorium or a small gathering of individuals sitting six feet apart, the honor remains the same.
During the announcement, Norton Principal Kelly Grillo became emotional when speaking about her staff, and it’s understandable why. While every segment of our society has been impacted by the virus, perhaps nothing has been as negatively affected as has education.
For teachers, the challenge has been immense. It began in March, when schools went to a remote-learning model and continued throughout the spring as educators sought different ways to keep their students both educated and motivated while administrators dealt with plans for an uncertain fall semester.
Now, districts are trying to figure out the best ways to provide as much in-person education as possible without risking an outbreak of the virus within schools. It’s a delicate balancing act, and one that will take a lot of adaptation throughout the next few months.
So, it’s no wonder that last week’s announcement was met with such excitement, such raw emotion. It would have been worthy of celebration no matter the circumstances, but it must be even more satisfying for everyone involved given the difficult circumstances in which they find themselves.
And while the award is most obviously a testament to the dedication of the educators and administrators at Norton, it is also an honor to be shared by the students and parents who make up that school’s community. Speak to any educator at any level and they’ll tell you that elite-level learning becomes difficult, if not impossible, when it doesn’t all begin at home.
Engaged parents and concerned families oftentimes equal dedicated students.
If Norton didn’t have smart students with parents/families pushing and supporting them, the likelihood is small that the school would have been named a Blue Ribbon winner. It is truly an award that “takes a village.”
So, take a bow, Norton School community. Take a bow, Cheshire administrators. In this difficult, uncertain time, it’s nice to have a little good news to share.