First published: 1992-11-06 (see more)
Thornton Academy was named one of four state finalists in the 1992-93 Blue Ribbon Secondary School Recognition Program, Headmaster Carl Stasio Jr. announced on November 3. It's the second time in as many application cycles that the school has reached this level of achievement.
"Ultimately, any thoughtful organization wants to be viewed as the very best of its kind," Stasio said. "For secondary schools, this is the way to do it: to be named a National School of Excellence."
Blue Ribbon Schools are considered model programs for America 2000, a presidential initiative to achieve national education goals by the turn of the century. Thornton's selection by the Maine Department of Education means that the school will receive a site visit before November 23. State reviewers will spend time visiting classes and trying to get a feel for the educational climate that TA provides to its students. On December 1, the state will nominate up to three of the schools visited to proceed to the national level of review.
According to Stasio, all secondary schools in the country received notification and applications for the program this summer. Each state education department then selected a small percentage of the program applicants for a site visit and can nominate a number of visited schools for national review, based on state population.
Schools are selected for site visits based on a number of criteria. One important consideration is the success in furthering the intellectual, social, physical, and moral growth of all its students.
"Thornton is going beyond general knowledge-acquisition," Stasio said. "We've taken a personal-wellness approach to the individual, integrating education with physical and mental well-being, self-esteem, and success.
"We've tried to hook students up with Thornton's roots and traditions to get them started in the right direction. That's what we're all about as an institution," he added.
The educational environment that the school provides its students is also of significance. "The school should have an atmosphere that is orderly, purposeful, and conducive to learning and character building," the application document reads.
Several programs have been instituted in recent years which address aspects of the student environment. Stasio pointed to the freshman orientation program as one key component of an overall effort to let students know they are part of a family at Thornton. Other projects, such as the Undergraduate Recognition Award Night and the Renaissance Program, are designed to recognize student merit, effort, and responsibility.
Unusually Effective Programs
The application process also attempts to identify schools that excel in "Conditions of Effective Schooling." Schools reaching the site-visitation stage must demonstrate exceptional capacities in leadership, teaching environment, curriculum and instruction, student environment, parental and community support, indicators of success, and organizational vitality. To this end, Thornton Academy faculty have taken leadership roles in several academic programs, like a combined math-science project, Foxfire, and the University of Southern Maine Partnership.
"We have taken a real pro-active stance to innovative curriculum design," Thornton's headmaster said. "Enabling our students to learn how to know is more important than simply knowing."
Beyond a solid foundation in reading, writing, reasoning, and problem solving, the Blue Ribbon Program this year placed special emphasis on "unusually effective programs" in math and science.
"That was very fortuitous for us," Stasio pointed out, "because of our involvement in the Hitachi grant program integrating science and math classes for freshmen. The new class called Science and Math I is project-based and largely built around group work. Our investment in this double-period interdisciplinary course places us at the cutting edge of secondary school science and math programs."
"We had a pretty traditional science program for the first 17 years I was department chair," Chris Nadeau said. "We know it doesn't work. We're interested in changing that. We're trying to make science more relevant to the students."
If Thornton is nominated by the state for national review, the application will once again be subjected to intense scrutiny, this time by a panel of education experts, state and federal officials, medical professionals, and business, labor, and community leaders. This panel will make recommendations for a second round of visits to take place between February and April of 1993. Based on those visits, the panel will decide which schools will become 1992-93 Blue Ribbon Schools. The names of those schools will be announced next May.
"It is important that we seek this type of recognition," Stasio said, "to hold our program up to national standards."
title: "Thornton a State Finalist in Blue Ribbon Competition"
outlet: TA Newsletter
citation: "Thornton a State Finalist in Blue Ribbon Competition" Newspapers.com, Journal Tribune, November 6, 1992, https://pressherald.newspapers.com/article/journal-tribune-thornton-a-state-finalis/127625520/