September 21, 2011 // Local

St. Joseph Grade School named National Blue Ribbon School

SOUTH BEND — St. Joseph Grade School in South Bend has been named a 2011 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.

The National Blue Ribbon award honors Principal Suzanne Wiwi, St. Joseph Grade School’s faculty and staff, its students and parents, the Congregation of Holy Cross, and all of St. Joseph Parish and the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

Accredited through the North Central Association, St. Joseph School offers a core curriculum that far exceeds state and federal standards. Students have achieved consistent high performance as measured by annual Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress (ISTEP). This is due in large part to the school’s emphasis on mastering the fundamentals of reading, writing and mathematics.

Traditional studies at St. Joseph School are complemented by classes in religion, music, visual arts, foreign language, computers, language arts and physical education.

As a member of the Inter-City Catholic League (ICCL), St. Joseph School students excel in athletic competition, and the school promotes good sportsmanship and character building through sports.

St. Joseph School students are also known for contributing their time and talent in service to the community. Students visit area agencies dedicated to serving the underprivileged such as the Christ Child Society and Hope Ministries. Other forms of service include visiting the elderly and the infirm at Holy Cross Village and at St. Mary’s Convent.

Principal Wiwi, an alumna of St. Joseph School, has served as the school’s principal since 1989. Owing to her outstanding leadership, St. Joseph School provides an exceptional learning environment for all of its students.

The school has witnessed significant growth in enrollment during her tenure. St. Joseph Grade School currently serves 446 children in grades K-8.

St. Joseph School teachers meet the highest standards of advanced training and are dedicated to providing students with a quality education.

Holy Cross Father John DeRiso, pastor of St. Joseph Parish, told Today’s Catholic, “St. Joseph Catholic School received this honor because God continues to bless this parish named in honor of His servant, Joseph. We are blessed with a bishop who wholeheartedly supports Catholic education, as did his predecessor. We are blessed with the charism and spirituality of the Congregation of Holy Cross and the inspiration of its holy founder — Blessed Basil Moreau, CSC — who urged Holy Cross teachers to educate both the mind and the heart of the child. We are blessed with a parish community that believes in and supports Catholic education through its stewardship of prayer, service and sacrificial giving.”

He added, “We are blessed with the gifts and exceptional leadership of Mrs. Suzanne Wiwi, who is in her 23rd year as school principal. We are blessed with a talented and dedicated faculty and staff. And we are blessed with gifted, hard-working students, and invested and committed parents. These are the ways in which God has blessed this community. This is why we received this honor. “

St. Joseph Grade School shares the designation with other Catholic elementary and secondary institutions in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend that have received the National Blue Ribbon award in past years, including Christ the King School, South Bend; St. Jude School, Fort Wayne; Bishop Dwenger High School, Fort Wayne; and Saint Joseph’s High School, South Bend.

“This Blue Ribbon School designation is not just an honor for us, but for Catholic education as a whole,” Father DeRiso said. “It means that Catholic education is a gift to the faithful and to society. Its success is the result of the collaboration of shepherds, administrators, teachers, parishioners, clergy, students and parents.”

“We share in this award with the other 42 outstanding Catholic schools in our diocese,” he added. “Above all, we are grateful to God and to those whom the Spirit moves to be generous benefactors of our school and of Catholic education. We are grateful to Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades and Dr. Mark Myers, (superintendent) for their support. We are proud of our students — who they are and what they have accomplished. That is what this honor means for us.”

St. Joseph School was founded as an educational ministry of St. Joseph Catholic Church by Holy Cross Father Edward Sorin in 1854. In its 157-year history, St. Joseph Catholic School has educated the hearts and minds of generations of children from South Bend and surrounding areas. In the pedagogical tradition of the Congregation of Holy Cross, St. Joseph School integrates a solid faith-based formation with a strong academic curriculum that encourages graduates to excel in high school and beyond while sharing in the mission of the Church and contributing to the communities of which they are a part.

The National Blue Ribbon School award honors public and private elementary, middle and high schools where students achieve at high levels or where the achievement gap is narrowing. Since 1982, more than 6,500 of America’s schools have received this coveted award.

The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors public and private schools based on one of two criteria: 1) Schools whose students are high performing. These are schools ranked among each state’s highest performing schools as measured by their performance on state assessments or, in the case of private schools, that score at the highest performance level on nationally normed tests; or 2) Schools with at least 40 percent of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds that improve student performance to high levels as measured by the school’s performance on state assessments or nationally-normed tests.

The U.S. Department of Education named 304 schools as 2011 National Blue Ribbon Schools. The Department will honor the entire 255 public and 49 private schools with their National Blue Ribbon School awards at a conference and awards ceremony Nov. 14-15 in Washington, D.C.

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