Hughes, Rogers Earn National Blue Ribbons

Two Long Beach Unified School District middle schools recently were named 1999-2000 National Blue Ribbon Schools, the top honor for excellence bestowed upon schools by the U.S. Department of Education. Hughes and Rogers middle schools were among only 40 California schools and 198 nationally to be selected this year from 377 nominees. They join Cubberley School, Prisk and Twain elementary schools as the first five LBUSD recipients of the nation's highest school honor. Selection as National Blue Ribbon schools confirms that Hughes and Rogers have met the U.S. Department of Education's rigorous, research-based criteria for overall excellence. They excel in the areas of student focus and support; school organization and culture; challenging standards and curriculum; active teaching and learning; professional community; leadership and educational vitality; school, family and community partnerships; and other quality indicators of success. Hughes and Rogers were selected by a national review panel after a thorough evaluation, involving administrators, teachers, students, parents and community representatives. Evaluation teams visited both schools in April before making the final decision. "This is wonderful because I've been telling everyone at our school how awesome they are, and finally someone else is telling them, too," said Linda Moore, principal at Rogers. "This validates everything I believe about the teachers, kids, staff and parents at this school. The people here work harder than anyone could imagine." At Hughes, Lead Administrator Frank Rodriguez said the school's notification by mail capped a nearly yearlong process of information gathering, writing and then waiting for a decision on the award. "It feels great. There's an initial sense of euphoria, and then a lot of relief," Rodriguez said. "It validates what we've been doing." Evaluators who visited Hughes especially noted parents' active involvement at the school. "Parents have strong feelings of empowerment and investment," evaluators wrote. "They feel they have strong input into the school and are fiercely loyal to Hughes. They also recognize the strength of the faculty and the degree to which they care about the school and their children." Evaluators at Rogers noted that every category of the application was either accurate, or in some cases, understated by the school personnel themselves. "They're saying we're better than we told them we were," Moore said. Among those "under-rated" categories was "opportunities for students to build sustained and caring relationships with teachers and other adults." Evaluators, who independently interviewed teachers, parents and others, cited this quote from a student: "Our school is like one big family. Here, you are respected and cared for. There is a lot of trust, and I would rather be here than anywhere else." One Rogers parent told evaluators, "If this were a company on the stock exchange, we would invest our money in it." Representatives from this year's two winning schools in Long Beach will travel to Washington, D.C. in September to accept their awards.