BY ANGELJEAN CHIARAMIDA
---- — SEABROOK — Seabrook Middle School was honored with a New Hampshire Middle School Excellence in Education award yesterday.
A 20-year-old, private, independent initiative, the EDies award annually recognizes New Hampshire public schools on the elementary, middle and high school levels that meet high standards of educational excellence.
Although the school community celebrated as a whole at a surprise assembly yesterday morning, administrators will travel to Manchester on June 8 to pick up an engraved school bell, the symbol of the EDies.
Seabrook Middle School Assistant Principal Bryan Belanger said he and Principal Les Shepard couldn’t be happier for the students, parents, teachers, staff and the entire community.
“When the kids learned about the award, they were surprised but filled with pride,” he said. “They’ve been with us on this from the beginning.”
According to Barbara Gondek, chairwoman of the EDies Middle School Selection Committee, giving the school bell to Seabrook yesterday was a pleasure.
“During the Middle School Selection Committee’s site visit, Seabrook Middle School just blew us away,” Gondek said.
Gondek said there are five categories, with sub-categories, involved in scoring those schools applying for consideration for the award. Seabrook excelled in each.
“That doesn’t always happen; sometimes schools are good in some areas but not in others,” she said.
The qualities that impressed the six experienced educators on the selection committee included the school’s extensive use of technology in teaching, its sense of community, the teachers’ focus on teaching to the needs of each student, a welcoming atmosphere and the students’ behavior.
Excellence was present in everyone, Gondek said, students, teachers, administrators, secretaries, food service to the maintenance staff members.
“They live and breathe the Peace Builders initiative at Seabrook — everyone’s involved,” said Gondek, a 35-year retired middle school teacher from the Bedford, N.H., school district. “We didn’t see any signs of typical middle school behavior like teasing and bullying. It was just such a nice atmosphere.”
The selection process began in December, when the school applied for the award, she said. The committee took all applications and went to work. Each school was visited and evaluated.
“I recommended Seabrook due to its phenomenal approach to educating the whole child through a caring faculty and staff and an extensive involvement of community resources,” she said. “A sense of community and caring exists in every aspect throughout the school. They use a variety of teaching strategies and best practices infused with technology.”
Belanger said the school was fortunate to have state-of-the-art technology.
“We’re very fortunate, for the students and teachers have cutting-edge technology to use in Seabrook,” Belanger said. “The community is very generous and supports us on this.”
Gondek said the criteria of the EDies does not eliminate districts like Seabrook that are listed as “In need of improvements,” under the No Child Left Behind testing system. Teaching is more than just test scores, she said, and as long as a school has an action plan to correct its problems, it can still apply.
“Seabrook has an action plan, and they showed it to us,” she said. “We had a wonderful visit the day we were there. We didn’t want to leave.”