Northern Wyoming Daily News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Karla Pomeroy

Blue Ribbon winning school

South Side Elementary named one of the best in the nation


September 30, 2016


COURTESY/South Side Elementary Members of the South Side Elementary staff gathered to celebrate the news that they are a National Blue Ribbon Award School. They are (front row, l-r): Corey Davis, TaMara Robertson, Esther Sweeney, Linda Grenier, Brittany Tidemann, Donna McGarvin, Lori Feather, Karrie Preuit, Amanda Macy, Jamie Snyder and Debi Morrison; (back) Amber Ray, Stacy Martinez, Tina Rich, Sarah Douglas, Dione Townsend, Pat Andersen, Julie Newell, Kari Ferree, Sally Miller, Lissy Hughes, Linda Griemsman and Chris Peterson. Not pictured are Tina Krejci, Beth Magstadt and Margo King.

WORLAND - U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. announced Wednesday that South Side Elementary has been named a 2016 National Blue Ribbon School. South Side is one among 279 public and 50 private schools receiving this honor.

Schools are nominated for the award by the state department of education, and then complete a comprehensive application about school practices. Schools may apply for status as Exemplary High Performing - among the top schools in a state - or Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing-schools making the fastest progress in their state in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.

South Side Principal Wade Sanford said, "For us as a staff it's a great honor. There were only 329 school that were selected across the nation. We're very excited and proud to be a part of the group, but I also think it's district award to some extent because it's indicative of the work that's going on in all the schools across our school district. I think everyone is working to help students grow and increase our achievement and continually get better."

He added, "We're happy to bring some recognition not only to South Side but also to our district, because as I said it's very indicative of the work and effort going on throughout our district."

South Side was honored in the Exemplary High Performing category, which was based on PAWS testing and also being able to meet standards in the Wyoming Accountability and Education Act. Sanford said those scores triggered the state department invitation, which they received in February.

Sanford said once invited they put together their comprehensive application that included artifacts and evidence to support and explain the practices they were using to achieve their success. With the application complete, the school has been waiting since March to see if they would be honored as a Blue Ribbon school.

Jody Rakness, district curriculum director, said the district has received other national awards, including national Title 1 school honors. "Those are completely different. The Blue Ribbon is just a special accomplishment. And to receive the Blue Ribbon Award, you've not just demonstrated excellence once, you've demonstrated excellence over a period of time; so consistency."

She added that there is a lot of excitement around the award and being able to honor South Side staff as well as the staff around the district.

"The efforts people put in are just incredible," she said.

Blue Ribbon Award

Sanford and Building Leadership Team Chairperson Kari Ferree will represent South Side at a two-day awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., Nov. 7-8 to celebrate their hard-won achievements.

South Side was one of three Wyoming schools honored. Ft. Caspar Academy in Casper and Wilson Elementary in Wilson were also Blue Ribbon winners.

National Blue Ribbon Schools demonstrate that all students can achieve to high levels. In his video message, Secretary King praised the 2016 schools: "As a former social studies teacher and a school administrator, I understand the tough choices you have to make. It takes courage to do the right thing for children, even in the face of significant obstacles. All of you – students, teachers and administrators – deserve our highest praise. You are shining examples for your communities, your state, and the nation."

In its 34-year history, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed this coveted award on some 8,000 schools.

South Side Elementary

The mission for South Side is "treat others how we want to be treated, do our best every day, make our community the best place to live by making good choices."

In the write up about South Side on the Blue Ribbon website,, "the success of South Side is rooted in the commitment and dedication of a high performing staff. The staff functions within a Professional Learning Community model, focused on continuous collaborative efforts, resulting in job embedded professional development opportunities, maintaining focus on the mission and vision. The model has produced a strong commitment to fidelity of instruction among grade level teams, as well as to programs utilized for instruction. Instructional decisions are team based, data driven, and are implemented through research based best practices. Data regarding growth and achievement, is considered for each individual student, and is at the heart of South Side's continued success. By reviewing detailed information regarding students' strengths and areas of concern, South Side is able to provide explicit, meaningful, targeted instruction for each student. Through outstanding staff communication to parents regarding their individual student, an active Parent Teacher Organization has emerged, and continues to grow parent engagement through a variety of activities throughout each school year. The benefit of such an active PTO has been the family atmosphere, leading to caring, thoughtful, and meaningful relationships with parents and students. However, the foundation to what currently exists, is clearly the dedicated, professional and caring staff that is in place at South Side. Their belief that every student matters, and can succeed, drives them to provide the best for each student every day."

For more information about the National Blue Ribbon Schools program, or to see the announcement video that includes photos for all the schools visit


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