Ice cream party celebrates Blue Ribbon Award

Ice cream party celebrates Blue Ribbon Award
Teri Stein

Mark Natoli, left, and Kelsey Davis, members of the Indian Valley Foundation, helped serve ice cream to students.


Though Port Washington Elementary was recognized in September and November 2022 as a Blue Ribbon School by the United States Department of Education, the Indian Valley Foundation has carried the celebration through to almost the end of the school year by hosting an ice cream party for the students on May 15.

The school, which serves nearly 400 students from kindergarten through fifth grade, won in the category of Exemplary High Performing Schools.

This proved to be a problem for the Indian Valley Foundation, which usually recognizes award-winning people from the district during its annual gala in April.

“One of the recipients of our awards that we give each year was Port Washington Elementary for the Blue Ribbon Award, which is a national award for schools, and it involves the whole school. We couldn’t figure out what to do for them because usually it’s one person and we give them one gift,” said Pat Kohl, a member of the IVF. “We finally decided that we could do an ice cream day for the kids.”

The event took the foundation a half-hour to serve each student an ice cream cup with sprinkles. They received their treat while sitting on the grassy lawn of the school.

The IVF has grown over the years and does many things to help the teachers and students in the district. It also gives scholarships, classroom grants and building grants. It gives new teachers $50 to help set up their room, and new support staff are included.

“At first we had to pinch pennies,” Kohl said. “But now we’ve grown and can do more.”

It was the State of Ohio that got the ball rolling. It first notified the school to nominate them for the award. Port Washington Elementary accepted and went through the application process. Its application filled out 20 pages.

“That’s quite an application process,” Principal Troy Page said. “We had a committee of teachers who volunteered their time. We all wrote our Port Washington application and submitted it. It was mostly just narratives that you had to write up and describe.”

The application included information on eligibility certification, demographic data, school overview, curriculum and instruction, school climate and culture, and strategy for academic success.

In November 2022 an award ceremony for all the national recipients was held.

“Indian Valley School District was kind enough to send the team of staff members from Port Washington that worked on the application to Washington, D.C.,” Page said. “Three of our team members were able to attend the actual award ceremony, which was myself, Mrs. Patty Couts, who is one of our teachers, and Dr. Ira Wentworth, our superintendent. It was quite an honor.”

Other individuals from the volunteer committee also attended and participated in presentations on varying topics on how to make schools better during the two-day trip.

Port Washington Elementary School was only one of 13 schools in Ohio to receive the award last year. Schools can receive the award as often as every five years. Port Washington previously won the award in 2003. At the ceremony in Washington, D.C., the school was recognized as a two-time award winner.

The school also received a plaque and a flag to display.

People working together are the reason for Port Washington Elementary winning the award.

“It all goes back to our students, our staff and our families,” Page said. “They’re the ones that truly put in all the work on a daily basis, and it’s just nice to be recognized for doing what they do. That’s what makes our school special.”

Parts of the school overview section tell the reasons for the school’s success:

“Community members, parents, visitors and students who enter this exceptional building often tell staff that the school emits a feeling of family. Indeed, this is our secret ingredient. That’s something extraordinary — so vital to the students and staff who thrive here,” the overview reads. “Our teachers, cooks and custodians become their matriarchs. When students struggle, they are supported by our intervention specialists, Title I staff, speech pathologist, educational aides and community volunteers.

“These members fill the role of grandparents, spoiling the boys and girls by working with them in small groups, rewarding them at each small success, and treating any disabilities with unconditional love. All students can learn and are supported wherever they are on their academic journey. We work toward a common goal: our district mission of ‘working together to personalize a rigorous standards-based learning experience.’ Each morning as announcements conclude, these words resonate from our classrooms: ‘Say it loud and say it proud: P-O-R-T Positive Outgoing Respectful Team.’”

Page greets students by name each morning.

The staff uses social emotional learning lessons to show students how to get along and navigate challenges faced by the younger generation.

Loading next article...

End of content

No more pages to load