Two Northern Panhandle public schools have been named West Virginia Schools of Excellence for the 2013-14 school year.
Colliers Primary School in Brooke County and West Liberty Elementary School in Ohio County received the honors.
Jo-Ellen Goodall, principal at Colliers Primary School, said even without the state recognition, she knows her school and the community are "outstanding." The school educates students in kindergarten through fourth grades.
"Our students are phenomenal and the staff is one in a million," Goodall said. "We all work together. It's a symbiotic relationship with the community at large."
Goodall noted if the school needs something, she puts out "the call," and the PTA and community come together to make sure the school gets what it needs. The school partners with Colliers United Methodist Church and Weirton Medical Center, both of which meet specific needs at the school.
The PTA operates a clothes closet for the students. Other area churches, including Open Door Baptist, conduct school supply drives so that no student is without what he or she needs to further their education.
Even with 65 percent of the 178 students eligible for free or reduced lunch, Goodall said, "We are fortunate to have a big-hearted community. It's just fantastic."
Zachary Shutler, who just completed his first year as principal at West Liberty and Bethlehem elementary schools, said he gives much of the credit for the award to the previous principal, Michelle Snyder, the staff, parents and students.
"I look at the job the staff does day in and day out, their dedication and care they give to the students. We also have a tremendous community that supports us, especially West Liberty University," Shutler said.
He noted that the university sends student teachers to the elementary school to learn and teach. Also future physical education teachers from the university work with students after school hours.
Shutler is especially proud of the elementary school's student council, which he meets with each week to learn "how we can make things better" at the school.
The school has 115 students who enjoy field trips and many other activities, all supported by the community.
Schools of Excellence are selected based on the following criteria: a rigorous and challenging curriculum; a safe and drug-free learning environment; participatory leadership; active teaching and learning; an environment that strengthens teacher skills; documented student achievement; and implementing advanced and innovative programs.
Other schools selected for the recognition include: Berkeley County, Hedgesville Elementary; Kanawha County, Herbert Hoover High School; Mercer County, Mercer County Technical Center; Nicholas County, Panther Creek Elementary; and Randolph County, Randolph Technical Center.
Individual school applications were reviewed by a panel to determine where site visits should occur.
During the site visits, the schools provided the site visitors with verification and documentation to support a final recommendation for recognition.
Schools will be recognized with a reception and banquet on Oct. 9 at the Clay Center in Charleston.
For more information about West Virginia Schools of Excellence, call Nancy Cline, coordinator for the Office of School Improvement, at 304-558-3199 or email nmcline@access. k12.wv.us, or call Liza Cordeiro in the WVDE Communication Office at 304-558-2699.