This past Friday, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that Westwood High School had been named a 2012 National Blue Ribbon High School.
The designation as “Exemplary High Performing” was one that just 38 high schools, both public and private, across the country achieved, and is the highest honor a United States school can receive from the U.S. Department of Education.
“It’s really a remarkable achievement,” Westwood High Principal Sean Bevan said. “It reiterates what I already knew: Westwood High is a unique and terrific place to send your kid. I’m just really thrilled.”
National Blue Ribbon Status is earned by looking at the results of state assessments or national-normed tests. But Bevan doesn’t want WHS to be limited by those scores alone. He very much stresses the fact that Westwood High offers so much more than just test scores, or what shows up in test scores. He said that they’re always trying to improve, so receiving an award doesn’t mean they’ll stop trying to get better and achieve more. He thinks this is just another example of the great job the teachers do everyday.
Westwood is also known as a town where the residents are very much involved with everything that goes on within it. No matter the issue or which town board it comes before, the people of Westwood are always interested and always involved. This carries over to the school system, and Superintendent of Schools John Antonucci says this is one of the reasons they’ve been able to reach and maintain the level of excellence that they have.
“I’m grateful we live in a community that values education like it does,” Antonucci said. “The community supports its schools in so many ways. The most visible way is getting financial support. You cannot overestimate how important that is. If we didn’t have the resources it’s make it so much harder, probably impossible.”
The high school may be getting a little more attention than usual right now. But Antonucci and Bevan know that this isn’t just about the high school here in Westwood; it’s also about the elementary and middle schools as well. Most of the students at WHS started off as elementary school students right here in town, and their teachers at the younger levels helped prepare them for when they reached Westwood High.
“I notified the entire staff in the district,” Antonucci recalled about how he told everyone about the honor. “The success of the high school students is due in part to their entire experience in the Westwood schools- Pre-K through 8. All the staff is taking pride.
“I think we have a true All-Star staff throughout the high school and the district. We work very hard to recruit and retain our staff.”
Antonucci noted that Bevan has done an outstanding job, but also wanted to point out that Emily Parks, who preceded Bevan for six years as the high school principal and is now the Assistant Superintendent, deserves some credit as well. He said that Parks “took the school to new heights” and is a “real special leader.”
He praised the leadership that is currently at the high school as well, calling Bevan, Assistant Principal Brian Harrigan and Dean of Students Katie Ricard “not only good leaders, but smart and committed to Westwood High. You can’t ask for more than that.”
Bevan will represent the school at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on November 12-13. He will also attend with a teacher, although which teacher will have that honor has not been determined yet. He still likes pointing out how much more WHS offers than just good test scores, but at the same time, he and Antonucci are all smiles right now.
“This is about excellence,” Antonucci said. “The work we do at schools is really never done. There’s a commitment to continuous improvement. It’s never enough. Students continue to grow and get better every year. “