St. Athanasius in Evanston one of 50 ‘Blue Ribbon’ school in nation
Students at St. Athanasius School in Evanston gather in the gymnasium Sept. 7 to learn the school was honored as one of 50 private schools nationwide to receive the U.S. Education Department's Blue Ribbon designation. | Bob Seidenberg~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 14, 2012 12:37PM
EVANSTON — Evanston’s St. Athanasius School won the equivalent of academic gold on today (Sept. 7), receiving notice the school is one of only 50 private schools nationwide to receive the U.S. Department of Education’s 2012 National Blue Ribbon School.
Principal Susan Castagna announced the school had received the prestigious award to students, teachers and others packed into the St. Athnasius gym this morning.
“We have a lot to be proud of,” Castagna told cheering students. “It represents the top 1 percent of all the schools in the United States.”
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan released the list today, announcing all 269 National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2012. The National Blue Ribbon Schools program was set to establish a standard of excellence for schools, celebrating achievement across the country.
Some 18 in Illinois were recognized for the award this year, including St. Francis Xavier School, at 800 Linden in Wilmette, located roughly a mile to the north of St. Athanasius.
Founded in 1923, St. Athanasius, at 2510 Ashland in northwest Evanston, is a private Roman Catholic school with enrollment of 332 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
The school was specifically cited in the department’s program category of “Exemplary High Performing Schools.”
“Schools honored with the National Blue Ribbon Schools award are committed to accelerating student achievement and preparing students for success in college and careers,” Duncan said. “Their work reflects the conviction that every child has promise and that education is the surest pathway to a strong, secure future.”
Castagna accepted the award graciously, handing out praise to the school’s teachers, students, parent council and network of alumni.
“We are thrilled to have won this award. The Department of Education has confirmed what we’ve known for years — St. A’s is one of the outstanding schools not only in the area, but in the nation,” she said.
The school’s education team had to prepare an elaborate nomination package to be considered for designation. The package documented students’ outstanding test scores during the past five years, innovative teaching and learning techniques, and the unique class structure, in which students work under the same teacher for two years.
It also cited the student leadership programs, an excellent learning environment, community activities and service projects, as well as parent and alumni involvement, Castagna said.
“During the past five years, St. A’s has created new programs and learning experiences for our students that are state-of-the-art in education,” she said.
In announcing the award, she and Father Peter Heidenrich spoke about the pursuit of excellence, referring to the recently completed Olympics. Following the ceremony each student received a blue ribbon (and a free recess — which may have received the day’s loudest applause.)
“Today the Olympic gold came to St. Athanasius,” Father Heidenrich told the excited students