Casey Elementary State's Only National Blue Ribbon School | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Casey Elementary State's Only National Blue Ribbon School

Casey Elementary School students wait for National Blue Ribbon flag raising ceremony to begin.

Casey Elementary School students wait for National Blue Ribbon flag raising ceremony to begin. Photo by Imani Khayyam.

Casey Elementary School students, faculty, parents and community leaders gathered outside the school's front doors in north Jackson this morning to honor its designation as Mississippi's only 2015 National Blue Ribbon School with a ceremonial flag raising. Students recited both the Pledge of Allegiance and their school pledge—the promise that students and faculty make to learn everything they can about the world and to use their imaginations to solve problems and express their ideas.

It was the second time that the U.S. Department of Education has named Casey a National Blue Ribbon School. The designation goes to public, private and parochial schools based on academic excellence and progress in significantly narrowing achievement gaps. Casey received the National Blue Ribbon School flag during a presentation in Washington, D.C.

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(left to right) Superintendent of Jackson Public Schools Dr. Cedrick Gray, Chief Academic Officer Dr. Michelle King, City Councilman of Ward 5 Charles Tillman, and Principal of Casey Elementary School Rhoda Yoder address the crowd at Casey Elementary for the National Blue Ribbon School flag raising ceremony.

"I'm very proud," said U.S. Air Force Sgt. Debbie Pollard, whose daughter attends Casey Elementary. "The arts program is the best thing I like about Casey Elementary, and that they put a lot of emphasis on their Accelerated Reader program as well." Pollard says that the faculty and staff at Casey are very helpful and supportive, and that her daughter, who plays the violin, loves her teachers.

The public magnet school emphasizes the visual and performing arts and integrates the arts into its traditional curriculum.

Principal Rhoda Yoder says that the goal for students at Casey Elementary is to generate art that reflects their academic learning. Yoder attributes the academic success of the school to the teachers and staff, praising her assistant teachers especially.

"There is a culture here of love, acceptance, valuing and nurturing for every child who comes here," Yoder said. "Many of them choose to come here, but some live in the school zone. We also serve the Wingard Home, which is a homeless shelter, and whoever arrives at Wingard comes here. We put our arms around whatever their needs are."

Yoder says that though the school sees a fair amount of success, it still feels the lack of Mississippi Adequate Education Program funding.

"The way we can have this many arts teachers is by not having our own PE teacher. Teachers have to teach their own physical education and health. We do not have a computer teacher; teachers go with students to the computer lab. So there are trade-offs; we don't get any more money than anyone else does," Yoder said in an interview with the Jackson Free Press after today's ceremony.

Attendees at the flag raising included Jackson Public Schools Chief Academic Officer Dr. Michelle King and Ward 5 Councilman Charles Tillman.

Sierra Mannie is an education reporting fellow for the Jackson Free Press and the Hechinger Report. Email her at sierra@jacksonfreepress.com.

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