Community Celebrates 'Cozy Little School's' National Blue Ribbon Award

Betsy Ross alumni, including a student who attended in the 1930's and retired principal Cathy Bennett, took part in a celebration honoring the school's new title

The entire community can take part in the celebration of a national award recognizing Mahwah’s Betsy Ross Elementary School as one of the best places to learn in the country.

That was the message Wednesday morning at a district-wide celebration of the school’s Blue Ribbon Award.

In September, the United States Department of Education announced Betsy Ross was one of 269 schools across the country given a “Blue Ribbon Award” in 2012. The recognition highlights the top one percent of schools in the country in terms of test scores and student learning and performance.

Students, parents, teachers past and present, local government officials, BR administrators, Board of Education members and district administrators gathered Wednesday to commemorate the award.

“This is not something that could be achieved without the support of the entire school community,” interim Superintendent Dr. Karen Lake said.

Current and former students, including a trio of singers from Ramapo Ridge and a Betsy Ross alum who first attended the school in 1935, took part in the celebration.

“I am proud for the same reasons you are,” Stanley Shuart, an 82-year-old Betsy Ross grad, said in a video addressing current students during the ceremony. “We share the same beginning.”

Shuart, who said he recently visited the school, spoke of the similarities and differences between BR now, and what was known as “Cragmere Elementary School,” when he started attending it as a first grader in 1935, four years after the school had been built.

“Except for the addition, the building looks almost the same as it did 77 years ago,” Shuart, who said his first grade classroom is still being used as a first grade classroom today, said.

“Now, though, you have these fancy white boards [in your classrooms] that look like they do all sorts of magical stuff,” Shurt said, referring to the school’s Promethean smart boards. “We had plain old chalk boards.”

Bergen County Freeholders John Felice and Maura DeNicola attended the ceremony to recognize the achievement, and Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi presented the school with a commendation plaque.

Mayor Bill Laforet declared Dec. 12 “Betsy Ross Blue Ribbon Day” in Mahwah, calling the award, “an extraordinary thing,” and “an award the entire community should be proud of.”

Past teachers and retired Superintendent Dr. Charles Montesano also attended the ceremony and were thanked for their contributions to the school.

“This [recognition] does not happen overnight or over one year,” Dr. Roger Bayersdorfer, interim Betsy principal who led Wednesday’s ceremony, said.  “It happens over a long time.”

Bayersdorfer was one of a trio of recent Betsy Ross principals honored at the ceremony for their contributions to the school’s award. Now district-wide Director of Curriculum Christine Zimmermann, last year’s BR principal, was recognized for submitting the application for the award to the DOE.

Zimmermann said she was "honored" to be a part of the "Cozy Little School's community."

Cathy Bennett, who retired in 2011 after serving as Betsy’s principal for 15 years, was welcomed back to the school with a standing ovation and remarks of thanks and appreciation from many of the event’s speakers.

“I always knew Betsy Ross was a very special place to learn and grow,” Bennett said during an emotional speech. “Now, the rest of the country knows it, too.”

Betsy Ross was one of 16 schools in New Jersey that received the award this year. See the full list here.


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Rick D. Jr. December 13, 2012 at 02:47 PM
As a Betsy Ross "grad" and parent of three current students, this is something to be very proud of...especially the faculty and support staff (some of whom were there when I was!).
Ruth C. Spangler December 18, 2012 at 01:47 AM
As a former principal of Betsy Ross School from 1973-1992, I was thrilled to read about this special recognition. The principal and staff are to be congratulated. Keep up the good work! Ruth Spangler
Bonnie Turnamian December 19, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Bonnie L. Turnamian I am a former Betsy Ross teacher and always knew from the moment I stepped into that cozy little community school, that it was a special place where families and teachers and administrators worked as one to educate the whole child. Congrats to all present and former staff members for this awesome achievement!


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