Hillside Named a National Blue Ribbon School


Natalie Garson, Managing Editor

On September 16, Hillside Elementary School was named a 2022 National Blue Ribbon School.

According to the U.S. Department of Education website, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes schools “based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.” The award shows that winning schools are “creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content.” Hastings schools have won this award several other times in the past: Hillside in 1998, Farragut Middle School in 2007, and Hastings High School in 2001 and 2017.

The application process was rigorous, Hillside Principal Ms. Cazes said on “The Buzz,” a biweekly video series with Dr. McKersie that is published on YouTube. “We realized that this would really be best as a team approach, so our team leaders each took an aspect of the application and they worked with a heterogeneous team of teachers from different grade levels and different special areas… [The application] ended up being about 20 pages in total.”

Second Grade Leader Ms. Dianna Clarke and Third Grade Leader Mrs. Phyllis Udice added on to Ms. Cazes’s remarks on “The Buzz” and credited the Hillside community for much of the school’s success.“Hillside is a very special, inclusive school that promotes courage, curiosity, and respect, and our school values are embedded throughout the school day,” Ms. Clarke said. “We strive to create a home away from home here in the Hillside community, a place where students can feel free to take risks, where they can feel supported, where they can be themselves, and have fun while they learn and grow.”

“We have been sent emails from parents, from past students, from teachers across the district who are so proud of this accomplishment for us,” Ms. Udice said.

Ms. Cazes also discussed the steps forward for Hillside after this accomplishment. A National Blue Ribbon Committee has been created which will plan a celebration. “This is an enormous award, so we believe that our celebration will also be enormous,” Ms. Cazes said. “Stay tuned, because we’re getting ready for a lot of excitement!” Hillside recently had a Blue Ribbon week in which they celebrated the award in many different ways, like decorating the facade of the school.

Ms. Cazes and Ms. Udice recently went to Washington, D.C. in order to receive the National Blue Ribbon award. While there, they engaged in a variety of discussions and other activities in order to recognize the achievement and continue to grow and improve leadership.

According to a letter from Superintendent Dr. McKersie, Ms. Cazes hopes to feature upcoming programs and events to celebrate and to extend lessons from the conference.

As Dr. McKersie wrote, “Having traveled the domestic education world more than many, including many gatherings of the best educators, I can attest to these two days as a time in rarified air. The Hillside educational community earned a place at this pinnacle of excellence and achievement.”