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Newfields Elementary gets national award, attention

Union Leader Correspondent

November 14. 2013 7:49PM

NEWFIELDS — Everyone, from elementary students to Gov. Maggie Hassan, agreed it took the efforts from an entire community to be recognized as having one of the best schools in the country.

During a ceremony at Newfields Elementary School Thursday morning, Hassan congratulated students, staff, parents and local leaders for working together to set an example for New Hampshire and the nation.

“Education is the foundation for our future success,” Hassan said.

“For every challenge you face and overcome, you become stronger and smarter,” Hassan said.

Fifth grader Michael Poulin, 10, credited the success to the hard work of teachers, the principal and parents — who “took time out of their busy schedules to bring pizza.”

“We have a great school and we’re proud of it,” Poulin said, adding they are “small, but strong.”

Superintendent Michael Morgan said the school earned the recognition for “bridging the gap between regular and special education.”

“It’s a tribute to the teachers and the community support,” Morgan said.

Long-time teacher Barbara Dupont, who recalls when the school had 60 students in four classrooms, said the recognition is well-deserved.

“It’s a special school,” Dupont said.

Currently, there are 140 students — in kindergarten through grade 5 — at the school.

N.H. Education Commissioner Virginia Berry asked students to help her define what “honor” means to them.

“It is something to be very proud of and something that is very important,” Berry announced after a student explained the definition.

While students and staff are normally proud of their school, Berry said it’s not every day that others — especially federal officials — share in the pride and respect.

This weekend, Principal Helen Rist, special education teacher Allison Bzdafka and “Mr. Penguin,” the kindergarten mascot, will travel to Washington, D.C., to accept the honor of being named Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.

“Our school has what it needs to succeed,” Rist said, adding this is an important lesson since the school strives to keep students — whether they are struggling or succeeding — challenged.

“We don’t want them to sit back on their laurels,” Rist said.

Rist said this campaign encourages students and staff to remain active and focused, which prevents them from falling behind or plateauing. She credits the talents of the passionate, experienced staff at the school.

This year, the U.S. DOE nationwide recognized 285 other schools, including Hollis Primary School and Lin-Wood Public Elementary School in Lincoln. Each school will receive a plaque and flag “to signify its exemplary status” during the annual awards ceremony in Washington.

Since 1982, the U.S. DOE awarded more than 7,000 schools across the country though the Blue Ribbon program, which “has become a mark of excellence in education recognized by everyone from parents to policy-makers in thousands of communities,” according to

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