By Cathy Harasta
The Texas Catholic
Bright blue ribbons adorned trees outside Christ the King Catholic School, the streamers encircling wide-girthed trunks and slender saplings alike on Oct. 1.
But contrary to a conventional case of the blues, this was a day for a community-wide celebration at Christ the King, which just had received word that the school had been recognized as a 2015 National Blue Ribbon School of Academic Excellence.
“This demonstrates the strength of the Diocese of Dallas and the quality of Catholic education in the diocese,” said Patrick O’Sullivan, principal of Christ the King Catholic School. “It really is a community recognition.”
The U.S. Department of Education designated Christ the King a Blue Ribbon school on Sept. 29 in conferring an honor that just 50 private schools in the nation receive.
Christ the King’s “Homecoming” pep rally in the gym on Oct. 1 doubled as a celebration of the Blue Ribbon recognition. After a spirited countdown, four students unfurled a large banner from the elevated running track’s rail as students, teachers and parents cheered the banner’s words: “Christ the King Catholic School—A Blue Ribbon School of Excellence.”
“It was really crazy because we’ve always known we were so blessed to be students at a school like this,” Christ the King eighth-grader Ford Buckner said. “It’s a warm and welcoming place where you can come to anyone if you have a problem. It’s really cool to know that our school was awarded something so rare.”
O’Sullivan said that he learned in October of 2014 that Christ the King, which has an enrollment of 422, met the Blue Ribbon program’s eligibility standards that include student achievement in English and math ranking in the top 15 percent in the nation, measured by nationally normed assessment tests.
The 33-year-old Blue Ribbon program evaluates aspects of the school community including curriculum, best practices, innovations and partnerships before naming the 50 private schools in the nation to receive the honor.
Christ the King, which achieved the Blue Ribbon designation in 1994, will join the nation’s other Blue Ribbon schools for recognition by the U.S. Dept. of Education at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 8.
All Saints Catholic School also was designated a 2015 Blue Ribbon school.
Msgr. Donald Zimmerman, pastor of Christ the King Catholic Church, said that the Blue Ribbon testified to the faculty and staff’s high level of motivation and dedication.
“It’s not just a profession for them but indeed a vocation,” Msgr. Zimmerman said. “They approach it as indeed a ministry. This is not unique to Christ the King. This is true of all Catholic schools I’ve dealt with.”
O’Sullivan said that Patrick Magee, president of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School, provided tremendous help during the year-long process that led to the National Blue Ribbon designation for Christ the King. St. Thomas Aquinas achieved the Blue Ribbon designation in 2002 and 2012.
“He was very supportive,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s a testament to the diocese. We all want to see each other do well.”
Shaping servant leaders and focusing on Gospel values remain central in the 68-year-old school’s tradition of Catholic identity, academic excellence and educating the whole child, said O’Sullivan, the school’s principal since 2012.
“Everything comes down to what is in the best interest of the individual student,” said Lisa Bosco, the school’s director of curriculum. “What I feel differentiated Christ the King was the focus on meeting each and every student’s individual needs.”
Kindergarten teacher Amber Clark, who has been at Christ the King for 18 years, said that the Blue Ribbon signified a community effort.
“This was something we all did together,” she said. “I think it was a proud moment.”