Blue Ribbon School
St. Mary's Academy Charter School Texas' First Blue Ribbon Charter School
Stan Simonson Principal and Mrs. Brown, Assistant Principal went to Washington D.C. to receive the coveted Department of Education’s Blue Ribbon School Award. St. Mary’s was nominated by three different organizations to be Texas’s First Blue Ribbon Charter School. In all 26 schools from Texas were honored and just over 400 schools received the award nationally. The Blue Ribbon is given to schools that exemplify the best in educational practices and outcomes. Some schools are honored for having continuous top performance. Others are nominated for continuous sustained growth and improvement. St. Mary’s was honored for its remarkable growth with students growing and achieving and higher and higher levels of success each year. St. Mary’s Blue Ribbon Award is coupled with the school’s first year as a Texas Exemplary Campus.
First as a private school and now as a public charter school, St. Mary’s has a 114 year tradition of providing the residents of Beeville with access to a high quality educational program emphasizing traditional values, community service and individual growth. St. Mary’s was the first school opened in Beeville, Texas. St. Mary's converted to a charter school in 2001 at the urging of community members who believed Beeville students would benefit from the individualized attention St. Mary's was known to provide.
Beeville is located in rural South Texas and has experienced long-term economic adversity. The Beeville oil field collapsed. The agricultural industry has suffered years of devastating droughts. In the early 1990’s Beeville lost its largest employer, Chase Field Naval Air Station. The Air Station was replaced by five area prisons. The community demographics have shifted. The community has become less well educated as a whole between the 1990 and 2000 census with fewer college graduates and fewer high school graduates as a percentage of the population. The prisons have attracted new people to the community including families of prison guards and inmates. The unique stresses and demands prisons place on the prison staff, the inmates and their families are mirrored in every aspect of the community.
In the year it converted, St. Mary's enrollment doubled. The students transferring to St. Mary’s were and are those most disenfranchised by the existing public school system. Students entering St. Mary’s during its first year were 3 or more years below grade level on the ITBS administered in September.
St. Mary’s students are more likely to have additional problems:
- One grade level that has matriculated had 50% of the students identified as special education;
- In one year 50% of the identified special education students were classified as emotionally disturbed ;
- Up to 6% of the students live in foster care; an even larger percentage does not live with a relative;
- Between 10-15% of the families have been evaluated by Child Protective Services;
- Between 11-12% of the children have been victims of sexual abuse;
- Families report that 25% of the students have family members who are or have been in prison.
To meet the challenges faced by its students, St. Mary's developed a comprehensive wrap-around support program. The wrap-around services include: Counseling, tutorials, after school enrichment, extended day/ extended year service, classroom interventionist, extensive staff development and family outreach. St. Mary’s provides real therapy going beyond the limited counseling provided in most schools. The school has 4 certified school counselors on staff. Three work as teachers and 1 as the school counselor. A 5th LPC counselor, certified in play therapy, provides 30 hours per week of individual and group counseling. A school psychologist oversees the program and works with the children as needed.
St. Mary's staffs the school with extra math and reading intervention teachers. These teachers work directly with the classroom teachers to identify children who would benefit from intensive individual and small group instruction. The 3 reading interventionists work with grades k-3. Two math interventionists work with k-3 and 4th through 8th.
To provide the extra time on task needed by students and to serve the needs of the parents St. Mary's developed the SMART (Science Math fine and performing Arts Reading and Technology) program. St. Mary’s SMART program is an after school and extended year program that wraps-around the traditional 8:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. two semester school program. The SMART program offers supervision and activities for an additional 3 hours. The extended year program runs Saturdays, intersession days, and summers for an average of 60 additional “school” days per year. The SMART program focuses on enriching and reinforcing the core subjects of Science, Math, and Reading/Language Arts. The program incorporates fine/performing arts and technology.
St. Mary's holistic approach has paid off in remarkable test gains in all areas. Each year St. Mary’s takes stock of it and uses a strategic planning process to target and increase student success. The school has been Recognized 4 out of 5 years. It was within one point in one subcategory of receiving an Exemplary rating for the past two years. The longer a child stays with the school, the better he/she performs. Students who enter St. Mary's below grade level quickly move toward grade level performances.
St. Mary's is truly a remarkable school that produces long-term, meaningful change in the lives of children each day. St. Mary’s Blue Ribbon Award is validation of the hard work and effort of everyone associated with the school. The students at the beginning of the 2012 -2013 school year celebrated their accomplishments with a school wide assembly.