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Schools win awards

— Several Okanogan County schools are among 413 statewide to win Washington Achievement Awards.

Winners were notified last week by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn and state Board of Education Chairwoman Kristina Mayer. The awards are for 2013.

Winners were selected using state and federal criteria.

“These awards shine the light on what is working well in schools across Washington,” Mayer said.

Local award winners are Brewster High School, for high progress; Bridgeport High School, special recognition for reading growth and English language acquisition; Liberty Bell Junior-Senior High, overall excellence; Okanogan High School, high progress; Omak High School, high progress and special recognition for five-year graduation rate; Pateros Elementary School, special recognition for math; Tonasket High School, high progress; and Tonasket Middle School, special recognition for English language acquisition.

Local school officials were giddy over the awards.

“I am very pleased with the award,” Omak Superintendent Erik Swanson said. “It is to the credit of our (high school) faculty, staff and administration for years of hard work to help our students succeed.”

“This marks three years in a row that Okanogan High School has received academic awards as a leader in Washington state,” Okanogan Superintendent Richard Johnson said. “The staff, students and parents of Okanogan High School should be proud of this and past accomplishments. They certainly have a right to be.”

“We are thrilled to be given the award again,” said Deborah DeKalb, principal of repeat winner Liberty Bell. “We have dedicated, hard-working staff that make a difference in our students’ lives every day.”

“We are very honored to receive the award,” Brewster Superintendent Eric Driessen said.

Pateros Superintendent Lois Davies also was pleased with her school’s award.

“We are very excited about the award. We will be planning an assembly to present the award to the staff and students in May,” she said. “Our teachers and students work hard and are very focused on academics. It is great to have the state recognition for this important work.”

“It is an extraordinary accomplishment and is a direct reflection on the hard work of our students, the dedication of our staff and the support and guidance of our parents,” Tonasket Principal Jeff Hardesty said. “During the past several years, (Tonasket High School) has implemented several programs that seem to be impacting our students’ success positively.”

Schools were recognized as top performers in one of six categories: Overall excellence, high progress, reading growth, math growth, extended graduation rate — awarded to high schools and comprehensive schools only – and English language acquisition.

“So many schools in our state are doing good work to make a difference for kids,” Dorn said.

Local officials praised not only the staff of the recognized schools, but workers district-wide.

“Let us not forget all of those years of training these students by previous teachers and classified staff, training that paved the way so students will have a better likelihood of meeting future academic challenges,” Johnson said.

The award must be shared with all employees, who work as a team so all students will succeed, he said.

“I also want to recognize our (pre-kindergarten to eighth-grade) educators and families,” Swanson said. “Success in high school begins at the beginning, when a child is born. Every adult in the child’s life helps to set their course for success.”

Omak High School Principal David Kirk said the school is excited about the award, “as it shows clear evidence that our staff work very hard to help students improve, and students are rising to the occasion and doing their best to meet state standards.”

The school’s staff, students, district and community aren’t completely satisfied with student results on the state standards, but the recognition for improvements provides much-needed support he said.

“The community has supported the schools through the levy and the participating in our events, and know that Omak is a great place to live and learn,” Kirk said. “We are very proud to be acknowledged at the state level as well.”

“This type of recognition is only possible because of the dedicated staff, students and community we have here in Brewster,” Driessen said.

He attributed the district’s success to “our staff, who stay countless hours after school and come in on the weekends to work with students, and our students, who are recognizing the importance of their education and are willing to put in the effort to be successful. Finally, the community that supports our schools and programs.”

Bridgeport officials did not reply to a Chronicle request for comment by deadline.

The award-winning schools will be honored at a ceremony on April 24 in Lacey.

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