November 28, 2012

Dept. of Education’s Highest Prize Goes to Saint Paul Catholic School

EXCELLENCE IN EDUCATION: Saint Paul Catholic School was among the winners of this year’s National Blue Ribbon award. At a recent celebration, Principal Ryen Killeen (left) accepted the award from New Jersey Department of Education representative Emily MacKinnon. (Photo by Frank DiGiovanni.)

Saint Paul Catholic School (SPS) of Princeton boasts several distinctions. It is the oldest Catholic school in Mercer County, and the oldest private elementary school in Princeton. Founded in 1880 by the Sisters of Mercy of Watchung, it is Princeton’s first and only coed Catholic school.

The 350-student, K-9 grade school recently distinguished itself in another way, by winning a 2012 “Blue Ribbon of Excellence” award from the Department of Education.

The Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence Program was created in 1982 to “identify and recognize outstanding public and private schools across the United States of America.” The award is the highest prize the Department of Education can confer. To qualify, private schools like St. Paul’s, must rank in the top ten percent of the nation; public schools must rank in the top ten percent in the state. In Princeton, the only other school to have won the award was the Princeton Charter School, in 2004. Nationwide, this year’s winners include 216 public schools, and 50 private schools. All of the schools were recognized by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at a recent ceremony in Washington, D.C.

“Our nation has no greater responsibility than helping all children realize their full potential,” said Mr. Duncan at the ceremony. “Schools honored with the National Blue Ribbon Schools award are committed to accelerating student achievement and preparing students for success in college and careers. Their work reflects the conviction that every child has promise and that education is the surest pathway to a strong, secure future.”

At a joyful ceremony of its own last week, the Saint Paul’s community, which welcomes students of all faiths, gathered to celebrate its success. A bagpiper played as everyone filed into Saint Paul’s Church.

In his opening remarks, Reverend Monsignor Joseph N. Rosie noted that all the learning that goes on at SPS — not just the religious training — are means of “learning about God’s wonder.” A video presentation showed SPS students at work, at play, and at prayer. Most recently, students participated in a collection that sent five vans filled with supplies to aid Hurricane Sandy victims.

In addition to the Blue Ribbon award, SPS has had first- and second-place wins for the last 12 years in an area-wide “scholarly olympics.”

“From whom much is given, much is expected,” observed Superintendent of Catholic Schools JoAnn Tier, invoking Matthew 20: 1-16. Mr. Duncan’s observation that “exemplary schools don’t just happen; they happen by design,” was also cited that morning.