'This is a BIG deal': Mount Carmel celebrates fourth Reward School honor, sets sights on five

Jeff Bobo • Nov 28, 2018 at 10:00 PM

MOUNT CARMEL — It’s a major accomplishment to be named a Reward School by the Tennessee Department of Education one time.

But to earn that honor four out of the past seven school years, including two years in a row is “a BIG deal,” according to Mount Carmel Elementary School fourth-grader Colton Smith.

On Wednesday morning, local dignitaries joined MCES faculty, staff and a gymnasium full of students to celebrate their second consecutive Reward School honor and their fourth since the 2011-12 school year.

Reward status is the top distinction a school can earn from the Tennessee Department of Education. Reward Schools are those that are improving overall academic achievement and student growth for all students and student groups.

In 2018, 318 schools in 85 districts — about 20 percent of schools in the state — earned Reward status.

They include four in the Hawkins County school system (Mount Carmel Elementary, Carters Valley Elementary, Clinch School and Hawkins Elementary) as well as the independent K-8 Rogersville City School.

HES and Clinch held their celebrations on Nov. 14, and Carters Valley’s was Nov. 20.

Wednesday’s Mount Carmel celebration opened by welcoming alumni, the fifth-graders at Church Hill Intermediate who were MCES’ fourth-graders last year and helped achieve the back-to-back Reward School honors.

Then several current MCES fourth-graders spoke to the audience including: Jameson Mowell, who welcomed the fifth-graders; Danni Guinn, who led the Pledge of Allegiance; opening remarks by Smith, Isabella Goode and Kloey Harmon; introduction of special guests by Madison Rodriguez; and presentations by Reward School essay winners Isaac Boyd, Braxton Gray and Aiden Laws.

Smith said, “Not many schools can say they’ve received that honor so many times. This is a BIG deal.”

Goode said, “All our hard work and dedication has placed us as one of the top schools in all of Tennessee. Only 20 percent of schools were granted this title. This is a huge honor for our school. I want to thank all of our (visiting) fifth grade students who are here with us today and the entire school for all their hard work.”

Harmon said, “Sitting in this room are the future leaders of our community, our state, and even our nation. Our teachers know this and encourage us to be leaders each and every day.”

A video of the entire presentation can be viewed in the online version of this article at www.timesnews.net

Angie Luna Nava then thanked the audience, and the final student speaker, Lucas Helms, issued his schoolmates a challenge.

“Last year I stood here as a third-grader and challenged our school to be a Reward School again,” he said. “Look at us. Here we are celebrating this amazing accomplishment again. Thank you to our teachers for continuing to expect the very best out of each of us and continuing to set the bar high throughout each day.”

He added, “Do you think we can do it again? I don’t think we can. I know we can.”

Hawkins County Board of Education Bob Larkins, who represents Mount Carmel, echoed Helms’ challenge.

“Not only am I proud because this is my home school in this district, but I’m also proud because I’ve got two grandchildren in this school too,” Larkins said. “I’m very proud of them as well. On behalf of the Hawkins County Board of Education, let me challenge you. You set the bar very high for our other schools, but that we’re better than anyone else, but we’ve worked hard. Let me challenge you again. Let’s make it number five. As Lucas said, let’s do it again.”

Rep. Gary hicks presented Principal Amy Glass with a Tennessee House of Representatives proclamation congratulating the MCES administration, faculty, staff, students and their parents for achieving Reward School status.

Director of Schools Reba Bailey then presented Mount Carmel’s fourth Reward School banner, which will join those already hanging in the gym from 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2016-17.

Bailey noted that a recurring theme among Wednesday’s speakers was making good choices, working hard and treating others with respect. She said the main goal is to prepare children for a changing world.

“We’re teaching kids to set goals, to work hard and to be prepared,” Bailey said. “They’ll have to be with what’s going to expected of them as they leave Mount Carmel, on their way into the middle school, and graduate from high school, and to college and work. Their world is different.”