By Seth Gonzales
The Texas Catholic
PLANO — As students waited with gleeful anticipation, hundreds of balloons fell from the ceiling and filled the gymnasium at Prince of Peace Catholic School to celebrate it being named a 2016 National Blue Ribbon school.
More than 840 students, faculty and staff packed the gymnasium for the celebration.
The festivities took place on Oct. 3, but Prince of Peace administrators were told on Sept. 28th by the U.S. Department of Education that the school would receive its second blue ribbon in ten years.
Principal Chad Evans addressed the crowd and emphasized how special it is for a school to be awarded the Blue Ribbon once, let alone twice.
With Dallas Catholic Schools Associate Superintendent Veronica Alonzo and Plano City Councilman Tom Harrison in attendance, Evans thanked them, but asked all the teachers in attendance to stand while the crowd gave them a warm ovation.
In 2006, Prince of Peace received its first National Blue Ribbon Award. This year, of 329 total Blue Ribbon recipients nationwide, 36 of them were Catholic schools. Prince of Peace was one of only two Catholic schools in Texas to receive the award.
Since 1985, 15 schools in the Diocese of Dallas have won the award. Six of them have won it twice. No school in the diocese has won it three times.
Evans said that since Prince of Peace first received the award in 2006, it has continued to build upon what has made the school successful while keeping pace with the growth of the student body and the introduction of new technologies in the classroom.
“This school has been strong for many, many years,” said Evans, who is now in his fifth year as principal of Prince of Peace. “It’s a combination of many people and so many different groups that have helped us maintain who we are and helped us move forward.”
For Prince of Peace Pastor Father Tom Cloherty, this is the second time a Catholic school under his watch has been named a Blue Ribbon recipient. The first came while shepherding All Saints Catholic School when it won the award for the first time in 2006 — the same year Prince of Peace received its first Blue Ribbon.
“I had gone through this once before, but it was still all brand-new excitement and energy especially in a new place for me,” Father Cloherty said. “It was an absolute delight.”
Father Cloherty said recognition on a national level “speaks to the caliber of Catholic education that we offer.”
Religion teacher Joyce Thompsett joined the faculty at Prince of Peace in 1997 and has watched the school grow over the course of nearly two decades. She said while the first award broke new ground for the school, the second feels like confirmation of the hard work she and her colleagues are doing.
“We are forward-thinking and we’re going in the right direction,” Thompsett said. “God is calling us into the future and we see ourselves as going into that future.”
In a video message to award recipients, U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. congratulated the schools, praising them for their high level of student achievement and, in some cases, making significant progress in closing the achievement gap.
“National Blue Ribbon Schools are proof that we can prepare every child for college and meaningful careers,” said King, who referenced his background as a former social studies teacher and middle school prinicpal. “Your schools are on the cutting edge, pioneering innovative educational practices—professional learning communities, project-based learning, social and emotional learning, positive behavior systems—making you shining examples for your communities, your state and the nation.”
King encouraged the schools to continue being “engines for innovation…galvanizing others to transform their schools as well.”