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More than measuring up
Three from district named Schools of Excellence
Excellent School 3 es
As Otwell Middle School Principal Steve Miller, right, watches, students, from left, Kateryna Kourliak, Laura Lupas and Vance Johnson work together on a science project Friday. - photo by Emily Saunders

Three Forsyth County schools -- Sharon Elementary, Otwell Middle and South Forsyth High -- have been named Georgia Schools of Excellence for 2008.

The Forsyth County school system announced the awards, given annually to 26 schools in the state, on Friday.

Principal Steve Miller said he felt overwhelmed with pride and accomplishment for the staff at Otwell, which was one of just two middle schools chosen.

"I am so very fortunate to be part of this incredible group of professionals that go above and beyond each and every day for kids," he said. "At Otwell we talk about how the possibilities are endless for our students.

"Thanks to the teachers for their hard work and dedication to our students and thank you to our students for putting forth your best efforts in school."

There are two categories of excellence: top 10 percent and greatest gains.

Top 10 percent honorees are in the top 10 percent of schools in Georgia as measured by assessments in reading and math. Sharon Elementary and South Forsyth were in that category.

Otwell won for greatest gains, which covers schools that demonstrated the greatest continuous gains in student achievement over the past three years in reading and math.

Sharon Principal Amy Bartlett said the win took a "true collaborative effort."

"I commend our students, staff, parents and community members for their dedication, commitment and hard work," she said. "We are honored to be recognized for this extraordinary achievement."

South Principal Jason Branch referred to the school's recent recognition as a silver award winner by the Governor's Office of Student Achievement and said it has been tremendous week for the school.

"It is a pleasure to be part of such an outstanding learning environment, and these awards are a testament to the hard work and dedication put forth daily by our students, staff and community," he said.

"At South we strive for excellence in everything we do and these awards recognize and reward those efforts. We are very proud of our kids."

Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Buster Evans shared the principals' excitement.

"Being named a Georgia School of Excellence is by far one of the greatest accomplishments a school in Georgia can attain," Evans said.

"I think it says much about our school system as a whole that three out of 26 Georgia Schools of Excellence from across the state are right here."

In addition, award recipients must also make adequate yearly progress for at least three consecutive years as part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The schools must also meet or exceed state mean scores in science and social studies (except for kindergarten through second-grade schools) and not be considered a "persistently dangerous school" under the unsafe school choice option.

High schools must offer at least two Advanced Placement courses.