By Emily Gallagher
Times West Virginian
Monongah Middle School can add a national award to its list of accolades.
Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, announced Tuesday that 286 schools across the nation were selected as National Blue Ribbon Schools, and Monongah Middle School was one of them.
Principal Steve Malnick said it’s an honor to have received the award.
“It’s an honor for us not only as a school but a community to receive such a national recognition,” he said.
Monongah was one of two West Virginia schools and the only middle school named as a National Blue Ribbon School. The other school in the state was Panther Creek Elementary School in Nicholas County.
Monongah is the third school in Marion County to receive the National Blue Ribbon School award.
Awards are something the school is used to. For the past two years the middle school has been named an exemplary school by the state of West Virginia.
Malnick said the school’s staff, faculty and students are the reasons Monongah received not only the awards in the past but now a national award.
“Honestly, I believe the hard work from the faculty, staff and students has been inspirational in going that extra step to receive such an award,” he said. “What I think it came down to was that we were acknowledged for the overall performance of our students.”
Malnick said he was proud when he learned that Monongah was a National Blue Ribbon School.
“I’m very proud not only for the students and faculty, but for the community of Monongah,” he said. “Monongah’s not a great big town, but there’s some great things that happen in Monongah and this is just one more thing they can add.”
An assembly was held Tuesday announcing to the students that the school had been named a National Blue Ribbon School.
Gary Price, superintendent of Marion County Schools, said he’s very proud of the work the school has done to achieve this accomplishment.
“Mr. Malnick provides inspirational leadership,” Price said. “He has very high expectations for the performance and the students of the staff, and they have responded.
“The staff responds by preparing the students well and inspiring them to achieve at a higher level, and the students have responded by achieving at a higher level,” he added.
In a way, Price said he was surprised about the news of a Marion County school excelling at a national level.
“You’re confident because you knew they would be a good applicant,” he said. “But you’re a little bit surprised because you knew that they’re up against a lot of schools across the U.S. and you just hope that when all is said and done that they are recognized for the excellence they have achieved here.”
Jon Feltz, a fifth-grade math and science teacher at Monongah, has been teaching at the school for 33 years.
“It’s very deserving,” he said. “The kids work hard. The staff and faculty work hard.”
Feltz, who is a graduate of the former Monongah High School, said being named as a National Blue Ribbon School helps bring positive attention to Monongah.
“A national honor doesn’t come every day to Monongah or Marion County,” he said. “It’s amazing.”
Lacey McDonald, a guidance counselor at Monongah, said the staff and faculty were excited to hear their school was awarded.
“It means the world to the faculty that the hours, the time commitment and the hard work has paid off,” she said.
Every day, McDonald said teachers can see how their hard work is paying off, and now it’s getting recognized. She said the U.S. Department of Education notified the school last November that they were one of three schools in West Virginia nominated for the award.
“They said as they were going through schools, our school was one that kept popping up,” McDonald said.
McDonald said the requirements for nomination can range from performance progress to attendance rate. She added that the students’ parents should also get credit for Monongah receiving the award.
“We rely heavily on our parents,” she said. “Not only to get the kids here, but at home in the evening, sitting down with them and making sure that they are working on their homework, studying for tests and even just taking the time to find out what they’re learning in class.”
Email Emily Gallagher at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @EGallagherTWV.