By Christina Leslie | Correspondent
St. Leo the Great School, Lincroft, and St. Paul School, Princeton, received public recognition of their national Blue Ribbon designation at a statewide Board of Education awards ceremony held Dec. 19 in Trenton.
The two diocesan grammar schools were members of a class of 17 New Jersey schools which received the coveted award for demonstrating a strong commitment to educational excellence.
Arcelio Aponte, president of the N.J. State Board of Education, congratulated the winning schools and personnel, saying, “These are well prepared, visionary teachers, outstanding leaders. These teachers and schools lead the way for student success and have the power to save lives; they are undoubtedly among the state’s most vital resources.”
The educators bowed their heads in prayer for the deceased students and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Conn., before Peter Shulman, assistant commissioner, chief talent officer, presented the awards to 2012’s Blue Ribbon Schools.
Representatives from the 17 public, private, charter and parochial schools gratefully accepted a framed proclamation of their excellence and posed beneath a replica of the Great Seal of the State of New Jersey.
St. Leo the Great School principal, Cornelius Begley, accepted the framed certificate for the Lincroft Catholic school, while Msgr. Joseph Rosie and St. Paul School vice principal, Denise Salvatore, approached the podium on behalf of the Princeton elementary school.
Cynthia Casciola-Kitts, associate diocesan director for elementary schools, represented the Diocese of Trenton on behalf of JoAnn Tier, superintendent of schools.
Recognition was also granted to the 2012 New Jersey superintendent of the year, Dr. Christopher Manno of the Burlington Township School District, and the two principals of the year, Paula Pelak-Valenti of the Emerson School District, and Daniel R. Johnson of the Sparta School District; as well as the four elementary school presidential awards for excellence in Mathematics and Science: Jennifer Basner, Berlin Borough; Kristina Lasher, Gladstone Elementary School; Julie Ogden, Woodcliff Lake School district; and Jeanette Schillieri, Leonia public school district.
In her closing remarks, Barbara Gantwerk, assistant commissioner, division of student and field services, expressed her wish that every child in New Jersey attend a Blue Ribbon school.
“The Department of Education is interested in the same goal for your children,” she assured the award-winning teachers and staff.
“It has been quite a week in education,” Gantwerk continued, referencing the tragic deaths of the Sandy Hook School elementary students. “I have a deep respect for all teachers’ work and sacrifices, sometimes to the point of your lives. We honor, respect and thank you for all the work you do for the children of New Jersey.”
Casciola-Kitts expressed her pride in both diocesan elementary schools’ achievements. “This is so remarkable,” she said of the national Blue Ribbon designation. “It is a very high honor, for it was rigorous and hard to attain.”
Noting the fact that eight of the 17 New Jersey award winners were Catholic schools, Casciola-Kitts asserted, “All the work we do confirms who we are.”