Three McDuffie County elementary schools received recognition for being Distinguished Schools last week, an honor bestowed by the state of Georgia on Title I schools that make Adequate Yearly Progress for several years in a row.
Maxwell Elementary was awarded around $75,000 for meeting AYP for five consecutive years, while both Norris and Thomson Elementary were given certificates for reaching AYP for three consecutive years.
"It feels fantastic," said Maxwell Principal Hannah Fowler. "The way budgets are being cut for this year and next, it's nice to know that we have a little cushion to ensure we get the instructional materials that we need for next year. It has been a blessing in disguise."
She went on to say that the school hasn't decided what to do with the money yet, but that it will probably used for next school year.
A Title I school means that the vast majority of the school's students qualify for free or reduced lunch.
Maxwell has about 72 percent of its students qualify for free or reduced lunch, while Norris has about 78 percent and Thomson Elementary is at about 79 percent.
Norris Principal Steve Rhodes credited his school's faculty and students for the recognition.
"We are very excited. We've worked very diligently in implementing our school improvement plan, and we've gone, what I think, is above and beyond motivating our students and faculty," he said.
Mr. Rhodes also noted that having three schools recognized by the state says a lot about the McDuffie County school system.
"It says a lot about our leadership staff across the system," he said. "I think we in McDuffie County are very much visionary and above the curve."
Thomson Elementary Principal Donald Davis also commended his students and faculty for their hard work.
"We are proud of receiving this recognition, but it comes from the hard work of the faculty and the cooperation of the parents. We've been a Title 1 Distinguished School previously, and we hope to continue to maintain our quality educational program here and continue to receive such recognitions," he said.
While meeting AYP is one requirement for becoming a Distinguished School, in addition schools must show at least a five percent increase in scores from the previous year.
This stipulation prevented Dearing Elementary, which saw extreme growth in its scores several years ago, from achieving the desired five percent growth in consecutive years.
McDuffie County Superintendent of Schools Ed Grisham predicted that Dearing Elementary would probably receive the honor next year.