Gunter Elementary School are one of just 26 campuses across the state of Texas to be nominated for the 2017 National Blue Ribbon Schools award, an accolade awarded to schools that achieve high levels of student performance

Gunter Elementary was nominated by the Texas Education Agency and will learn if it is a full recipient of the award in September when the U.S. Department of Education announces the winners.

Principal Dara Arrington said her school’s nomination is reason to celebrate.

“It’s amazing,” Arrington said. “And to know that we got it on the heels of our football team winning the state championship, it’s like our elementary, academic state championship. It’s just awesome.”

The National Blue Ribbon Schools award program was established by the U.S. Department of Education in 1982 and recognizes schools across the country. Nominated and winning campuses must have at least 100 students in grades K-12, and 22 percent of those students must be considered economically disadvantaged. The schools must also place in the top 15 percent of their state on the most recent assessments of reading and mathematics. Other criteria, applicable mainly to high schools, include closing performance gaps among different student groups and strong graduation rates.

In addition, Arrington said schools must have no irregularities or discrepancies in their testing history and have a record of safety.

Arrington, who has worked in the Gunter Independent School District for 27 years, said her school’s success is the result of a fairly simple equation.

“We just have teachers who have high expectations, students who rise to those expectations and parents who truly support both,” Arrington said.

She also credited all the school and district staff, regardless of whether they work in the classroom, and the Gunter community at large for the value it places on education.

Gunter Independent School District Superintendent Jill Siler said roughly 35 percent of students enrolled at Gunter Elementary are economically disadvantage and that is the factor that most influences a student’s academic performance. Siler said that fact speaks volumes of the work ethic of the school’s students and their ability to overcome obstacles.

“To know that this award is only eligible to those schools who serve a population of students in poverty and to know how exceptionally well our students perform is just incredible,” the superintendent said.

Siler said Gunter Elementary will undergo a rigorous vetting process by the U.S. Department of Education before the winners are officially announced in Washington, D.C. in September. Representatives of the awarded schools will also be invited to attend a ceremony at the nation’s capitol. Siler said Gunter Elementary faces some stiff competition from the other Texas nominees.

“There are some tremendous schools on that list, but I certainly believe in ours,” Siler said.