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State visitors praise three elementary schools
School WEB
State School Superintendent John Barge shows students at Settles Bridge Elementary the trophy they won for being a 2011 Georgia School of Excellence. - photo by Jim Dean

Two special visitors were greeted with song and applause Friday at three local elementary schools.

The excitement was to honor Georgia first lady Sandra Deal and State School Superintendent John Barge, but the dignitaries were quick to note the real stars were the students themselves.

Settles Bridge, Shiloh Point and at Vickery Creek received the attention for being selected as three of this year’s 26 Georgia Schools of Excellence.

“It is so exciting that you have achieved this award,” Deal told the students at Settles Bridge. “You know that means you’re the cream of the crop.”

Barge explained that just one school from each of the state’s 13 congressional districts was selected for greatest gains and highest achievement. Forsyth County is split between congressional Districts 7 and 9.

Settles Bridge was recognized as a school of excellence for making the greatest gains in student achievement over the past three years. The feat was more remarkable, officials said, because the school was already high achieving.

“Every day is a special day at Settles Bridge Elementary,” said Donna Morris, principal. “Today is an even more special day.

“I’m glad that they have the opportunity to see firsthand what I see every day and that is SBE is the greatest school in Georgia.”

Both Vickery Creek and Shiloh Point were among the top 10 percent of schools in the state.

“Sometimes, when you are at your very best, people notice you. And that’s what happened today,” Shiloh Point Principal Rebecca Johnson told fifth- and sixth-graders during an assembly for Deal and Barge. “I love you and I’m proud of you guys.”

Beyond the high ranking, a school of excellence must also have made adequate yearly progress for three consecutive years as part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

It must also have met or exceeded the state’s mean scores in science and social studies testing.

“That’s no easy accomplishment,” Barge told students. “You guys worked incredibly hard to get here.”

Following the visit, Vickery Creek Principal Ron McAllister said he was honored by the attention from the state officials, as well as the local school board.

He said it meant a lot for the officials “to recognize the passion, dedication and hard work of the students, the faculty and staff, the parents and the community members.”

“I’m honored as the principal to be able to be a part of a community that is committed to such a standard of excellence,” he said. “It was very humbling.”

In addition to the visit, each school was presented with a $1, 000 donation from Georgia Natural Gas.

During her remarks, Deal read a proclamation signed by her husband, Gov. Nathan Deal, declaring March as Read Across Georgia Month.

She commended the students on their efforts, but also pointed to the parents for their dedication.

“[Teachers] were pushing you to do a little more and stretch a little further,” she said. “Students have to have a little encouragement.”