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Award is a big pat on the back for area school

Award is a big pat on the back for area school
Austin Senior Defenseman Josh Detwiler manuvers the puck past Trevor Thompson of Owatonna Tuesday night at Riverside Arena in Austin. The Huskies beat the Packers.

LEWISTON — About 400 students and staff were in the Lewiston-Altura Elementary School gym Tuesday morning to receive the prestigious 2010 National Blue Ribbon School award, but one of the key groups in the school's success was mostly missing — parents.

While the students work hard and the staff is great, much of the success goes back to parents, said Principal Dave Riebel. Families of the students "think education is important," he said. They spend time reading to the children. During conferences at his school, it's common to have 95 to 100 percent participation, he said.

In part because of that, the school won the the honor bestowed on only six schools out of 3,449 in Minnesota and on only 304 out of 132,656 in the nation.

Kiana Ties, who accepted the honor on behalf of the students, said she helped get the award because she scored well on standardized tests and "did my homework." But it's her parents, Mike Olson and Janel Ties-Olson, who helped teach her the importance of education, she said. "Some times they help me with problems I can't figure out, and they help me study," she said.

Kiana is a sixth-grader, and the elementary school goes only through fourth grade.


But fifth- and sixth-graders from the intermediate school were included in the presentation, which was part pep rally, because the school was graded on how well its top grade — fourth grade — did during the past three years, said Riebel, who has been principal nine years. That meant Ties and her classmates had a big part in the honor when they took the tests two years ago.

The school decided to have the ceremony during the day, when most parents couldn't attend, because it meant students could be there, he said.

Besides parents, much of the credit for the school's high performance goes to teachers, said Superintendent Bruce Montplaisir. Good teachers make good schools, but the L-A elementary goes beyond that, he said. "Great teachers make a great school," he said.

Riebel said that a caring staff is, indeed, one of the critical parts. But the first one he listed was a focus on the environment. There has to be a caring atmosphere that goes beyond the negative things like stopping bullying. It has to be a positive thing where students focus on respect, and that goes back to staff that models that respect, he said.

With that as a basis, and having data from No Child Left Behind to find who is lacking which skills, the school can expect to continue ranking high, he said.

At the end of the ceremony, he called on students and staff to walk out with pride at what they had done. "Cardinal pride. Show it, be proud," he said.

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