School No. 5 in Linden has been selected to join the prestigious National Blue Ribbon Schools Program, a coveted designation from the U.S. Department of Education that celebrates excellent schools and effective educators. 

Faculty and staff were surprised with the good news on Thursday, Sept. 24. [WATCH THE ANNOUNCEMENT VIDEO ABOVE.] The news was broadcast from the USDOE to the School No. 5 gym, to teachers, administrators, community leaders, and news media. Pictured at top are Principal Laura Scamardella, second from right, with teachers Jayme Perezluha, Julie Siegel, and Kayla Miller, who were on the Blue Ribbon School application committee.

School No. 5, an elementary school that houses Grades Pre-K through 5, was chosen in the “Exemplary High Performing School” category based on a combination of state assessment data, student growth scores, absenteeism rates, and graduation rate. It is one of 367 schools in the nation and one of just nine schools from New Jersey selected for 2020.

“I have had the honor of being the principal at School No. 5 for the last five years and I remain privileged and humbled to be the leader of such an outstanding academic institution,” said Principal Laura Scamardella. “This award is a testament of the outstanding educators, families and students that create the School No. 5 community. It is through the strong partnership that we have with our community that continues to allow us to strive for nothing less than the excellence that our students and families deserve.

gym with people watching a screen and clapping

Those in attendance cheered at the announcement was made the School No. 5 has been chosen as a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence

“I would also like to thank the Linden Board of Education, the mayor, and community and district leaders for their continuous support of the School No. 5 learning community. This is a monumental accomplishment and I am honored to serve my community proudly each day.

“Thank you to teachers Julie Siegel, Kayla Miller, and Jayme Perezluha for being the committee that served as the lens of our staff.  We couldn’t have accomplished this journey without them.”

During the nearly year-long selection process, school and district administrators completed a lengthy application with information about student engagement, community outreach, teacher support, school leadership, strategies for academic success, as well as a host of data on curriculum and instruction, attendance, staff size, and demographics.

four educators posed for photo

Board of Education President Gregory R. Martucci, School No. 5 Principal Laura Scamardella, Superintendent Dr. Marnie Hazelton, and Assistant Superintendent Denise Cleary celebrate School No. 5's honor as a Blue Ribbon School.

“Today’s announcement by the U.S. Department of Education naming School No. 5 as a 2020 National Blue Ribbon School is a testament to the hard work and fortitude of the entire staff at School No. 5,” said Superintendent Dr. Marnie Hazelton. “When I first met Ms. Scamardella, she spoke so highly of her staff and the exceptional work they were doing with their children, I knew right away that she was a rock star! I look forward to celebrating with students and staff on November 12th, when they will participate in the official ceremony.”

Blue Ribbon Schools nationwide are a diverse group but share core elements of effective schools.

“Their leaders not only articulate a vision of excellence and hold everyone to high standards, they stay close to the real action of teaching and learning,” according to the program’s website. “Mutual respect and trust run deep in their cultures. Faculty are supported by mentoring and professional development and have time to coordinate their work. Data from many sources drive adaptations to support every student. Families and educators work together in trust.”

School No. 5 received a letter of congratulations after the announcement from U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

“Congratulations on your recognition as a 2020 Exemplary High Performing National Blue Ribbon School!” she wrote. “The U.S. Department of Education acknowledges your students’ success as an inspiring example of how teachers, parents, and community leaders can work together to help students prepare for what comes next. I commend you for striving to do what’s right for your students and to personalize instruction to meet your students’ unique needs and strengths. Thank you for what you do to help your students realize their potential and achieve their dreams.”

School No. 5 is home-away-from-home to about 300 students. In the 2019-20 school year, it was certified by the New Jersey Department of Education as a Future Ready school.