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Danbury’s Morris Street Elementary Earns National Blue Ribbon Honor

Students at Morris Street School in Danbury check out the newly hatched baby chicks in their classroom.
Students at Morris Street School in Danbury check out the newly hatched baby chicks in their classroom. Photo Credit: Contributed
Students at Morris Street School learn a lesson in fine dining.
Students at Morris Street School learn a lesson in fine dining. Photo Credit: Contributed
Morris Street School
Morris Street School Photo Credit: Contributed
Morris Street School principal William Santarsiero
Morris Street School principal William Santarsiero Photo Credit: Contributed

DANBURY, Conn. — Despite the challenge of being in a low-income area with many families struggling to make ends meet, faculty and staff at Morris Street Elementary in Danbury make sure that students have the encouragement and environment in which to succeed.

And that work paid off Wednesday when Morris Street School was named as a “National Blue Ribbon School” by the U.S. Department of Education.

The 342 schools recognized this year were announced by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. On Nov. 6 and 7, she and the Department of Education will celebrate with the honorees in Washington, D.C.

About 370 students attend Morris Street, a neighborhood school that offers family events from reading nights to picnics and garden activities.

“Morris Street School began a very serious transformation initiative 18 years ago with an implementation of a distributive leadership model,” said Morris Street’s principal William Santarsiero. “This approach empowers all staff and parents to focus on two common goals being increasing achievement for all students and building a school climate that is conducive to learning and teaching. These twin goals have paid great dividends, and we are excited to have achieved our transformation expectations.”

The National Blue Ribbon Schools meet one of two criteria: Exemplary High Performing Schools, which are among their state’s highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests, or Exemplary Achievement Gap-Closing Schools, which are among their state’s highest performing schools in closing achievement gaps between a school’s subgroups and all students over the past five years.

“The care given to its students by the faculty, staff and administrators at Morris Street is at the foundation of the tremendous academic growth that which the Blue Ribbon is based,” said Superintendent Sal Pascarella. “Mr. Santarsiero, the veteran principal, has high expectations for himself and his staff and they serve as a model for the student body.”

This is not the school’s first honor: it was named a “School of Distinction” for 2015-16 school year by the Connecticut Department of Education along with five other Danbury schools – Ellsworth Avenue, Hayestown Avenue, Mill Ridge Primary, Park Avenue and South Street.

In addition to garden activities and reading programs, the school has worked to bring numerous special programs to the students. Last year, kindergarten teacher Tracey Scalzo was awarded a grant from the Danbury Education Foundation to hatch baby chicks in her classroom. Also last year, 24 fifth-grade students dined on chicken cordon bleu and gateau with chocolate mousse while learning about how to set a table and converse during a meal. The event was sponsored by Sodexo, the district’s food service provider.

A reception will honor the Morris Street School staff and faculty at the Oct. 11 Board of Education meeting at the Danbury Public Schools administrative building on Beaver Brook Road.

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