'You're already leaders': Tennessee education commissioner helps MCES celebrate 'Reward School' status

Jeff Bobo • Mar 23, 2018 at 7:30 PM

MOUNT CARMEL — Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen was in Mount Carmel Friday morning to help students and teachers celebrate their elite status as a 2017 “Reward School.”

McQueen was quick to point out during the ceremony at the Mount Carmel Elementary School gym that while it was a great accomplishment, that’s not their ultimate goal.

She told the gym full of children to turn to their classmates and say to them, “We’ve only just started.”

MCES Principal Kelli Campbell received news last October that the school had been named among Tennessee’s elite Reward Schools for scoring in the top 5 percent in academic achievement during 2016-17 state testing.

“You are celebrating being one school out of 59 who are a Reward School for achievement, and that’s out of 1,800 schools in the state,” McQueen told students. “You’ve been a Reward School before, so you have that culture of excellence here. I appreciate the hard work you’ve put in to reach this moment, but keep it up every single day.”

McQueen: Students aren’t entitled to Reward School status

“It’s about growing and working and learning every day and being better than your best,” McQueen said.

The climax of Friday’s ceremony was the unveiling of the school’s third Reward School banner since 2011 by Director of Schools Steve Starnes and Board of Education Chairman Bob Larkins.

Fifth-graders who helped MCES earn its Reward School status in 2016-17 were invited to attend the ceremony and were applauded by the “underclassmen” as they entered the gym. 

Aside from McQueen, several dignitaries attended the event to help MCES celebrate this achievement including County Mayor Melville Bailey, Rep. Gary Hicks, Commissioner Dwight Carter, Commissioner Eugene Christian, BOE Vice-Chair Debbie Shedden, BOE member Holly Helton, Alderman Margaret Christian and the school system’s entire Central Office.

A student choir entertained the audience, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance led by students Mallory Fields and Lucas Hall.

Students Avery Young and Ava Boggs led the MCES pledge, followed by the welcome and introductions by Braxton Gray and Amber McLain.

There were also student presentations by Christian Bullock, Tyler Grizzle, Austin Glass and Emily Doyle. 

During her presentation McQueen explained to students why they earned Reward School status.

You’re a Reward School because of what you do

“You are setting high expectations. You know what the standards are. You know what you’re here for, and every day you’re focused on what is going to be important to move you forward in your life.”

You’re a Reward School because of how you do what you do

“Teachers are working diligently in the classroom to make sure you get the best possible instruction. That means, when you get to the test, it’s not a surprise. You’ve been doing strong work every single day.”

You’re a Reward School because of who you are

“You know why you’re here. It’s to learn, it’s to grow, and it’s always to come in and try to do better than your best.”

You’re a Reward School because you know why you’re here

“You are bettering yourself. You’re bettering your communities. You’re going to better your families. And ultimately, if you’re among the 59 schools out of 1,800 who have achieved this status, you are leaders. You’re already leaders right now, and you’re going to be a leader not only for the community, but the state and the country by continuing to push forward toward your goals.”

Closing remarks were made by Ava Fleishour and Lucas Helms.

As a reward for the achievement, students were awarded a field trip to the movies Friday.