By NED CAMPBELL
NISKAYUNA — Just as exceptional teachers can be role models to their students, exceptional schools can be models for other schools to follow.
Hillside Elementary School, one of five elementary schools in the Niskayuna Central School District, has received national recognition for being one of those model schools.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Sept. 30 named Hillside as one of 337 National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2014.
“National Blue Ribbon Schools are models of consistent excellence and a resource for other schools and districts,” Duncan said in a U.S. Department of Education news release. “We celebrate them for their tireless effort and boundless creativity in reaching and teaching every student.”
Schools are honored in one of two performance categories: Exemplary High Performing Schools or Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools.
Hillside received the former because it was among the state’s highest-performing schools as measured by state assessments or national tests.
Hillside Elementary, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, has about 340 students enrolled.
Hillside Principal Shireen Fasciglione said she was “really proud” of the entire school community — the faculty and staff, the parents, and most of all, the kids.
“It’s an honor, and it’s really an honor for the school community, because it really takes the whole community,” she said.
Hillside will be honored along with 287 public and 50 private schools during a ceremony Nov. 10 and 11 in Washington, D.C. Fasciglione and first-grade teacher Mary Burke will represent the school at the ceremony along with several faculty members who worked on the application last year.
In writing the application for Hillside, Fasciglione said they focused on the strength of the school’s faculty, its well-rounded course offerings and its supportive parents.
“They really attend all of our events, and they’re really supportive of the school,” she said. “And I think it takes that kind of teamwork … to educate our kids in the best way that we can.”
She said they also focused on the school’s strong sense of community, including the monthly Hello Hillside Community gatherings “where we come together as a whole school and we highlight what we’re learning in our classrooms” and character education is emphasized.
“That really is something that defines us as a school, and it’s an event that we really hold dear,” she said.
National Blue Ribbon Schools are nominated by the top education official in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Department of Defense Education Activity and the Bureau of Indian Education, and nominated schools submit an application to the Department of Education.
The national award has gone to just under 7,900 of America’s schools in its 32-year history, including Hillside in 1986.
Elsewhere in the Capital Region, Voorheesville Elementary School in Albany County also was among this year’s Blue Ribbon award recipients.