New Mexico education secretary honors Mesa Verde Elementary for being named Blue Ribbon School

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Mesa Verde Elementary School was honored by the state of New Mexico on Feb. 22 for receiving a National Blue Ribbon School award for 2021.

Mesa Verde was among 325 elementary, middle and high schools nationwide recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.

New Mexico Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus visited the school and presented a proclamation that touted the achievement by Mesa Verde and recognized the work of students, teachers and staff.

The proclamation, signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, also honored two other Blue Ribbon schools in the state, Coronado Elementary School in Hobbs and Mesquite Elementary School in Mesquite.

Julian Bluehouse, 5th grader at Mesa Verde Elementary School in Farmington, helps New Mexico Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus fasten the National Blue Ribbon Schools program flag on Feb. 22.

"This school, I could just tell walking into it, is an amazing place," Steinhaus said.

The 325 schools nationwide were notified about their awards in September. Mesa Verde celebrated their achievement on Sept. 22 in a school assembly.

The schools were formally honored by the U.S. Department of Education in November.

Despite the time that has passed since receiving the designation, Principal Pam Schritter said she is still excited about the award.

Mesa Verde Elementary School students wave at New Mexico Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus on Feb. 22 during his visit to the school in Farmington.

"I get so emotional about it because I'm so happy because of all the work our staff and students have put in. Our staff and students, they are always trying to do their best and excel," she said.

Students, teachers and staff gathered in front of the school to watch Steinhaus raise the Blue Ribbon flag over the school, then listened to him as he read the proclamation.

After the reading, students and teachers cheered.

The 5th grade class sang, "Fifty Nifty United States," and there was a dance performance to welcome Steinhaus to the school.

Mesa Verde Elementary School teacher Daveena John reacts to a classroom visit by New Mexico Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus on Feb. 22. During Steinhaus' visit, he recognized the school in Farmington for receiving a National Blue Ribbon School 2021 designation.

"I want you to look at the flag," Farmington Municipal Schools Superintendent Gene Schmidt said. "Every state that they named, received one of these flags. You are very special people. You are nationally recognized. … We are so proud of you."

In an interview after the program, Schmidt explained that the Blue Ribbon designation goes beyond honoring a single school year by praising the hard work done by students, teachers and staff in preceding years.

New Mexico Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus, right, presents a state proclamation to Mesa Verde Elementary School Principal Pam Schritter on Feb. 22. The proclamation recognizes the Farmington school's achievement as a National Blue Ribbon School 2021.

Before touring Mesa Verde, Steinhaus explained that the state education department notifies schools when the application process opens for the Blue Ribbon program and it is up to school leadership to apply.

"Farmington is one of those districts that's well known in New Mexico for being on the move," he said. "You've got an incredible principal here that took the initiative with her superintendent to start filling out the application, which is a lot of work."

"The data that this school was able to demonstrate is what tipped it over the top and made this a recognition for one of three schools in New Mexico," Steinhaus added.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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