Littlebrook Named Blue Ribbon School; Sustainable Jersey Honors Three Schools
BLUE RIBBON SCHOOL: Littlebrook Elementary School has been named a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. It has also, along with John Witherspoon Middle School and Johnson Park Elementary, earned bronze certification from Sustainable Jersey’s Sustainable Schools program. (Photo courtesy of Princeton Public Schools)
By Donald Gilpin
Princeton Public Schools (PPS) have several causes for celebration this fall, with Littlebrook Elementary winning a Blue Ribbon School designation from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and Littlebrook (LB), John Witherspoon Middle School (JW), and Johnson Park Elementary (JP) all earning bronze certification from Sustainable Jersey’s Sustainable Schools program.
Recognized by the DOE for high student achievement and quality programs, Littlebrook was one of only nine public schools in New Jersey, 342 public and private schools nationwide, to receive the Blue Ribbon distinction this year.
“I am so proud of our staff for the work they do each day to make Littlebrook Elementary a warm and welcoming school where students thrive,” said Annie Gonzalez Kosek, new district assistant superintendent, who was principal of Littlebrook for the past 14 years.
LB, with a student population of approximately 350 who speak more than 20 different languages, prides itself on caring, kindness, and collaboration, according to a PPS press release. Luis Ramirez took the helm as LB principal this past July.
“Littlebrook’s Blue Ribbon award is more than a celebration of our students’ outstanding academic performance,” said Superintendent Steve Cochrane. “It is also a celebration of the school’s caring relationships and innovative instruction.”
LB and other National Blue Ribbon Schools will be honored at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. on November 6-7. Each school will receive a plaque and flag to signify its Blue Ribbon status.
Science supervisor and head of the district’s Green Team Eddie Cohen praised the three schools recognized by Sustainable Jersey and noted that the other three schools in the district are poised to earn bronze certification, awarded for making a commitment to sustainability and succeeding in implementing significant first steps towards that goal, by the end of this school year.
“We are really excited with the great work that our students, staff, parents, and community members have done together,” Cohen said. “The collaboration amongst so many stakeholders to improve our practices while creating authentic learning opportunities was fantastic.”
JW implemented a composting and recycling program for its cafeteria last year, created a Room of Requirement where school supplies can be recycled and re-used by students, and expanded its garden program.
“Students, parents, and teachers have contributed to the success of our recycling and composting program in the cafeteria and the expansion of our gardens into the courtyard and memorial garden in front of the building,” said JW science teacher and Green Team member Janet Gaudino.
At JP students, staff, and parents have created a School Leadership Council, where students work together on issues that are important to their well-being in school, such as trying to eliminate disposable water bottles and other one-time use plastics, and caring for a school garden.
“In addition to providing hands-on experiences for students to tend a garden and observe first-hand food growing from seed, our garden is also an official way station for the migrating monarch butterfly with a variety of native plants and milkweed,” said JP instructional aide and Green Team member Bentley Drezner.
At LB, science lab teacher and Green Team member Martha Friend notes that “the students have always been caretakers of each other and of the environment. They are committed to our school-wide food compost program, and collect wrappers and packaging for our many TerraCycle brigades. Our students are waste-sorting machines. I couldn’t be prouder to be part of this conscientious and caring school community.”
LB uses its school garden to teach students about locally grown foods, has increased the school’s recycling program, and has hosted a Sustainability Fair for students to share their knowledge with their classmates and families.