Towne Acres Elementary named 2021 National Blue Ribbon School

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — One area school was recognized on Sept. 21 as a National Blue Ribbon School for 2021.

Johnson City School’s Towne Acres Elementary School was one of six Tennessee schools to earn the honor — only 325 schools across the nation are listed as annual National Blue Ribbon Schools.

“There is a tremendous level of excitement for our faculty and staff,” principal Dr. Josh Simmons said.

A press release from the United States Department of Education described Blue Ribbon honors as awards that are based on schools’ academic performances and achievements.

“This year’s cohort of honorees demonstrates what is possible when committed educators and school leaders create vibrant, welcoming and affirming school cultures where rich teaching and learning can flourish,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “I commend all our Blue Ribbon honorees for working to keep students healthy and safe while meeting their academic, social, emotional and mental health needs.

“In the face of unprecedented circumstances, you found creative ways to engage, care for, protect, and teach our children. Blue Ribbon Schools have so much to offer and can serve as a model for other schools and communities so that we can truly build back better.”

Dr. Simmons credits his faculty and their unwavering dedication for helping earn such a high honor.

“Teachers here are just incredible,” he said. “The work ethic among our faculty and staff here, to me, is unrivaled.”

Just as Secretary Cardona hinted, educators across the country faced daily challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Town Acres Elementary was no exception.

“Students having to quarantine, being in and out of classrooms,” Dr. Simmons said. “You know, being remote as a classroom teacher at times.”

“What could we do to get out the communication with the parents to let them know that we did not slack on making sure that they continued making successful decisions and that the academic rigor was still there?” asked Donna Patterson, a library media specialist in her 22nd year at the school.

Some days there were more questions asked than answers found. But, the whole Town Acres community worked tirelessly to overcome the obstacles and challenges they faced.

“Whereas we were here until about 5 o’clock each night trying to figure out ways to reach our students — they were here until 5:30 or 6 p.m.,” Dr. Simmons said. “So for them, they’re always going to do whatever it takes to make sure our students receive the best education possible.”

“We stationed ourselves to where we were able to use each other in order to be successful,” Patterson said. “So, it was a lot of teamwork.”

The faculty and staff are proud of the designation and honored to accept it, but a blue ribbon has never been what inspires them to give their best every single day.

“You do it for the kids, you do it for those relationships with kids. You do it for the relationship you have with each other as staff members,” Dr. Simmons said.

“No matter what is required, we make sure that they’re all successful,” Patterson said. “And it starts from their very first day at school until they graduate from our school.”

Other Tennessee schools to achieve Blue Ribbon recognization included the following:

  • Franklin – Clovercroft Elementary School, Williamson County School District
  • Franklin – Liberty Elementary School, Franklin Special School District
  • Maryville – Sam Houston Elementary School, Maryville City School District
  • Nashville – Meigs Middle Magnet School, Metropolitan Nashville Public School District
  • Signal Mountain – Thrasher Elementary School, Hamilton County School District

The U.S. Department of Education uses one of the two following criteria to award the title:

  • Exemplary High-Performing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests.
  • Exemplary Achievement Gap-Closing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools in closing achievement gaps between a school’s student groups and all students.

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