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NEWCOMB – The staff and students at Newcomb Elementary School took time Thursday to thank parents and the community for their contributions in helping the school win a National Blue Ribbon award.

The Central Consolidated School District school celebrated being one of three in the state selected for the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program in September, which honors schools that show progress in closing achievement gaps or that demonstrate academic excellence.

Newcomb Elementary improved its grade in the state’s A-F School Grading System to an A in the 2013-2014 school year from a C in the 2012-2013 school year.

The school was also one of 100 schools nationwide selected as a National Title 1 Distinguished School for 2014 in January.

Principal Deborah Belone said the staff at the school was looking at a way to give back to the community for its support of the high-achieving school.

“What we are trying to show is how all the teachers work together,” Belone said.

The whole school congregated in the gymnasium for an assembly that lasted several hours, as students from each grade gave a presentation and performed two songs for the parents in the bleachers. Each grade sang a song in the Navajo language and English language. Belone said the teachers at the school emphasize both languages in their lessons.

It was the teachers who led most of the ceremony, with Navajo language teacher Terry Denetdale working the microphone as master of ceremonies. He started by introducing each of the teachers, who were sitting in folding chairs next to their students, who sat on the gym floor. He also thanked the staff around the school, including front office and cafeteria workers.

Denetdale said it was a privilege as a teacher for the school to earn the Blue Ribbon award. He credited the award to former principals who created a culture of collaboration with teachers and parents in the community. It’s the first year for current principal Belone.

Ojo Amarillo Elementary School Principal Abena McNeely and Mesa Elementary School Principal Louisa Lopez-Martinez both previously worked as principal at Newcomb elementary.

“(The principals) led the charge for us to get as far and paved the way for us,” Denetdale said. “I don’t know about other schools, but we try to stay together as family, and we try to treat each other as family.”

Parents Ciro and Victoria Alba said they wanted to see what lessons were being taught in their daughter’s kindergarten class.

Victoria said they chose to enroll their daughter in Newcomb Elementary because the Navajo language is taught alongside the English language, and the teachers have been very friendly.

Preschool teacher Sharon Gabion said it was her first year teaching at Newcomb Elementary, and her fellow teachers made her feel at home by helping out with her lesson plans and working as a group in their professional learning community meetings.

“You are never left alone,” Gabion said.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.

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