A Texoma elementary school is being recognized on the national level for its high student performance in English and mathematics. The U.S. Department of Education announced Thursday that Gunter Elementary School is one of only 342 schools in the country to be honored as a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School.


The school was one of 15 elementary schools, and 28 schools total, in the state of Texas that was recognized with this year’s award. Gunter Elementary was recognized under the “Exemplary High Performing” category of achievement.


“National Blue Ribbon Schools are active demonstrations of preparing every child for a bright future,” U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in a news release to the honored schools. “You are visionaries, innovators and leaders. You have much to teach us — some of you personalize student learning, others engage parents and communities in the work and life of your local schools and still others develop strong and forward-thinking leaders from among your teaching staff.”


Gunter Independent School District Superintendent Jill Siler said district officials were told of the award yesterday and announced it to students Thursday. Administrators showed the students a 20-minute video featuring the names and pictures of the recipient schools.


“The National Blue Ribbon program is the most prestigious academic honor a school can earn,” Siler said. “While we are earning this award in 2017, this is a result of years and years of hard work by our teachers and students and continued high expectations from our entire school community.”


In order to be nominated for this award, students at a school much achieve the top 15 percent in English and mathematics in state assessments. At least one-third of public schools nominated for the award in each state must have a student population of at least 40 percent students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Gunter Elementary Principal Dara Arrington said about 47 percent of the students at the school are on the free or reduced lunch program.


“We know that research says that students’ socioeconomic status is probably one of the biggest indicators of their success in schools,” she said. “So, when you’re a high free-and-reduced-lunch school district and you are still showing high scores and test scores, that says a lot about your staff and your students and your parent support in the community.”


Arrington said the mood in the room was similar to that when the Gunter High School Football team won the state championships in December.


“It feels like we’ve won a national award, except it’s in academics instead of football,” she said.


In response to the award, U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe issued a statement congratulating the school on its successes and the award.


“Their academic excellence and impressive progress in closing achievement gaps is a direct result of the many dedicated teachers, parents and faculty members who are committed to ensuring that the education being offered at Gunter is truly preparing students to be the leaders of tomorrow,” he said.