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Four High Schools in the Ozarks Awarded National Blue Ribbon

NIXA, Mo. -- The U.S. Secretary of Education has recognized Nixa, Bolivar, Spokane, and Willow Springs high schools as a 2013 National Blue Ribbon School based on its overall academic excellence.
WILLOW SPRINGS, Mo. -- Four high schools in the Ozarks receive national honors.

The U.S. Secretary of Education has recognized Nixa, Bolivar, Spokane, and Willow Springs high schools as a 2013 National Blue Ribbon Schools based on overall academic excellence.

There were 236 public schools and 50 private schools around the country that were honored.

"It's a great honor for our school district," says Derrick Hutsell, superintendent for Willow Springs schools.

Willow Springs high school is one of eight public schools in Missouri earning a national honor.

"We've tried to set up a culture of high expectations," adds Hutsell.

The town has roughly 2,000 people, and for such a small town, it's receiving big rewards.

"Our teachers and faculty here are very dedicated and they deserve it," says Jimalee James, the principal at Willow Springs high school.

Fellow staff members agree that it's nice to finally be recognized for all their hard work.

"There's a lot of expectations on the teachers and the students, and so it's easy to bring up the negative a lot of the time," says Erin Brower, a chemistry teacher at Willow Springs high school.

And the teachers aren't the only ones who face challenges. Many of the students who go to school here come from low income families, and around 62% of them are on free and reduced lunch.

"We don't try to think of that as a handicap for students," says Hutsell, "we think every student can succeed."

"It just makes us appreciate it even more when we see those kids succeed," adds Brower.

"It feels really good to actually be recognized for the hard work that I've put into school and all the other students," says Kaleb Stolba, one of roughly 400 students at the high school.

These students earned the honor of becoming a blue ribbon school by achieving at very high levels and have made significant progress to close gaps in achievement....especially among disadvantaged and minority students.

"A lot of times in education we don't always get a pat on the back," says Hutsell.

"It's a really hard job," adds Brower, "it points out that we're doing some things right."

"It is a privilege and an honor to accept this well-deserved award on behalf of Nixa High School. It is not by chance that Nixa High School is receiving this award," said Mark McGehee, Nixa High School principal, in a statement Tuesday. "It has been earned by a very focused and purposeful effort on creating a viable curriculum, implementing best practice instructional and assessment strategies, and the using data to make adjustments. Students at NHS perform at high levels of learning every day as they continually strive toward our vision of 'Learning First.' I couldn't be more proud of our students, faculty, staff, and community."

Since 1982, nearly 7,500 of America's schools have received the blue ribbon schools award.

This year's blue ribbon schools winners will be formally recognized November 18th and 19 at an awards ceremony in Washington D.C.

Nixa High School will have a celebration on Friday, September 27 beginning at 1:45 p.m. at Eagle Stadium on the school's campus. Gov. Nixon, along with other local and state dignitaries, is scheduled to be at the rally.
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