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Two Blue Ribbon schools among us

The U.S. Department of Education honors Hunter's Green and Tampa Palms elementaries and 262 other schools in the top 1 percent.

By MICHAEL SANDLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 27, 2001


NEW TAMPA -- Hunter's Green principal Barbara Hancock was so elated, she broadcast the telephone call to the entire school Monday morning. Tampa Palms principal Betty Lou Turner listened carefully, then hung up and began ordering customized blue ribbons for nearly 1,200 students.

U.S. Sen. Bob Graham's office called both women to congratulate them on earning Blue Ribbon status, an honor from the U.S. Department of Education that recognizes the top 1 percent of schools.

Hunter's Green and Tampa Palms were among 264 public and private schools selected this year. They were chosen from 38 states and the Department of Defense, which has special schools for the children of its employees.

"Community support is a vital ingredient," said Earl Lennard, superintendent for Hillsborough Schools. "The parent involvement in those schools has made it come forward. In that length of time, that's just phenomenal."

Hancock said her school's other strengths include unique programs in the curriculum, including an introduction to environmental studies and special attention for remedial students. Turner cited staff and parental involvement as her school's strengths.

Blue Ribbon schools are selected by a national panel that looks at curriculum, staff, community involvement and environment. The schools will be honored this fall at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., that President Bush will attend.

Hancock especially wanted to share the message with her Blue Ribbon chair, Carol Woodson, who was teaching her first-grade class. Woodson, who has taught at both schools, was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer last December. She has continued teaching since undergoing chemotherapy and has donned an assortment of hats to cover her bald head. Anticipating the announcement Monday, she dressed in a blue outfit with a blue ribbon around her hat. She plans to make the trip to Washington this fall.

"We knew we were going to know this week, so many of us decided to wear blue until we found out," said Woodson, who taught at Tampa Palms Elementary after it opened in 1989 before moving to Hunter's Green when it opened in 1992. "We are a bunch of positive thinkers around here."

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