Duncan Addresses Passionate Leaders at Blue Ribbon Ceremony

Secretary Duncan at Blue Ribbon Ceremony

Secretary Duncan was introduced by Nina Todd, a 7th grade student at Roberto Clemente Middle School in Germantown, MD.

Presenting himself “first and foremost” as a parent of two public elementary school-aged children, Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan expressed deep gratitude to more than 700 principals and teachers from the 314 National Blue Ribbon Schools who were recently recognized at a ceremony in Washington, DC.

Offering praise for the “amazing difference” they are making, Secretary Duncan told the assembled school representatives that they made him very hopeful about the huge challenges the country faces. “You are truly going to lead us where we need to go,” he said.

In response to a question about the best way to reach legislators in order to show them what is working in effective schools, Secretary Duncan said educators should invite elected officials to visit their school and classrooms. However, Duncan urged the audience to not focus solely on federal officials, but to involve their local and state elected leaders, because education decisions are often made at the state and local level.

When asked to identify the most successful qualities of a good school, Secretary Duncan put the spotlight back on the National Blue Ribbon Schools, explaining that every great school has a principal and teachers with passion for students’ growth and well-being. “Half of the work is intellectual. The other half comes from the heart,” he said.

Read the list of this year’s winners and learn more about the Blue Ribbon Schools Program here.

Aba Kumi is director of the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program


  1. Coordinating school programs can be a very cumbersome task, but coordinating multiple schools and systems from fifty states has be overwhelming. Aba kumi deserves much kudos. The experience was wonderful. Like one blogger put it, I really could not feel the true magnitude of the accomplishment until I was there. One of the highlights of my life. My students and staff recently celebrated. It was an affair to remember.

  2. Applying for the Blue Ribbon Award was a detailed and sometimes daunting process. I did not realize the significance of receiving this honor until I attend the ceremony in Washington DC. It was an exhilirating experience and one I will not soon forget. Aba Kumi is a wonderful woman who truly helped me celebrate the majesty of being among the 50 non-public schools honored. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  3. On behalf of Fulton County, the principal, and faculty & staff of Crabapple Crossing Elementary School in Milton, GA. We would like to thank Aba Kumi, Director of National Blue Ribbon Schools, for her radiant smile as she congratulated blue ribbon schools all the way from Alabama to Wyoming! You are a JEWEL in the United States Department of Education. We are still “floating in the clouds” from the award and will celebrate all next week as our school welcomes State of Georgia Superintedent John Barge. Thank you for validating us!

  4. Piedmont High School was honored to be included in this group of dedicated and innovative schools. We are a small school in Alabama and have worked very hard to try and level the playing field for our students and help them become better prepared for their future, not our past. This award is one for the whole community and for all of their work and support for our school system. Secretary Duncan did an excellent job addressing the schools and Aba Kumi worked tirelessly with her staff to make sure that the program was a complete success. Thank you all for what you are doing to help education.

  5. What a thrill to be a part of such a prestigious award ceremony. Thank you so much! Being selected as a National Blue Ribbon School has given each individual at Challenger Basic School an increased sense of pride. We will cherish this award formany years to come! We will be celebrating it throughout this school year. Again, Thank you for your time and effort making this a very rich experience! Brad & Deanne Tobin – Principals at Challenger Basic School, Gilbert AZ.

  6. Many thanks to Aba and her staff for organizing and directing the Blue Ribbon Celebration. It was a first class event. Congratulations to all the schools who were involved. Blue Ribbon Schools are truly an elite group.
    The entire experience has been very rewarding for Lawson School and community. It’s great to have the positive recognition. Too many times schools around the state and country only make the news when something negative happens.

  7. Our school would like to thank Aba for the wonderful celebration in Washington D.C. Congratulations to all of the school and their dedicated instructors and students for all of their hard work and dedication to excellence.

    Lindbergh High School students, staff and community are honored to be part of the Blue Ribbon Schools Program.

  8. The experience of accepting the National Blue Ribbon recognition was amazing. J.F.Kennedy School is greatful and proud of our recognition and will continue to work to achieve greatness for every student.

  9. Receiving the National Blue Ribbon Award on behalf of West Shore Jr/Sr High School was awe inspiring to say the least. To be surrounded by so many premier educators from around the nation with the same drive, passion, and genuine enthusiasm gives me tremendous hope for the future of our country. Secretary Duncan was a beacon of inspiration for our craft and his touching words about school leaders and the role they play validated our collective efforts ten-fold. The overall event was the highlight of my career as was “dancing with Aba”!!!! Thanks to Aba’s team for the awesome recognition ceremony. Superb!!! Rick Fleming, West Shore Jr/Sr High School

  10. It was a wonderful celebration with school leaders from all across the country! I appreciate the great inspirational speakers and Aba’s dancing! I only wish that Secretary Duncan could have stayed and had his picture taken with each school. A surpise appearance from President Obama would have been great too! As a Blue Ribbon School, we know that if we aim high, we can get it… so maybe next time our esteemed recipients would be really honored by our high ranking officials. Thanks Aba and staff for all your hard work, it was fun!

  11. We were truly honored to be recoginzed as one of many outstanding schools throughout the country. Receiving this award in Washington DC was certainly a memorable experience. The recognition our school received for being a National Blue Ribbon School has been shared and appreciated by our student body, staff, and parents. We have never seen our community more thrilled about an educational achievement. Special thanks to Aba Kumi for making the awards program so enjoyable.

    Lee Begle, Principal
    Ferdinand Elementary School
    Ferdinand, IN

  12. We at Madison City were every proud of our students and their achievements. The Blue Ribbon is a definitely a community award.

  13. I really enjoyed the ceremony. It is a great honor to be one of the Blue Ribbon Schools. Everyone seemed to have a good time and the hospitality was unstanding. Thanks for everything.

  14. What a great experience! What made it even more special is that our school, John C. Vanderburg ES in Henderson, NV was the only school in the state of Nevada to be recognized for this award! I only wish I could have brought my entire staff with me to share in the ceremony. It is because of their hard work and dedication that our school received this honor. Great job, Abi and all who worked with you to plan an awesome event!

  15. The Academy of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is proud to be one of the elite blue ribbon schools! We have a wonderful staff but it is the children who light up the Academy. We were so proud to bring home the blue ribbon award and are flying the flag proudly, and Aba Kumi you ROCK!

  16. We are so proud to be a National Blue Ribbon School! It was such an uplifting and humbling experience to be part of the Blue Ribbon Ceremony in Washington earlier this month. In addition to wonderful speeches from Secretary Duncan and the National Teacher and Superintendent of the Year, AND the contagious energy and enthusiasm from Aba Kumi, it was so inspiring to hear the stories of the schools represented and to share ideas. Blue Ribbon Schools represent the wide diversity of communities, needs, and challenges of our nation’s schools. I felt that the National Blue Ribbon Schools Ceremony was a true celebration of this diversity and also of the qualities that all outstanding schools share: a love for students and for the teaching and learning process, an unwavering dedication to each student’s success in the classroom and in life, a recognition of the positive and lifelong impact that exceptional teachers have in the lives of children, and a commitment to continued improvement – always looking for a better way to reach students and build an exemplary school community. Thank you, Aba and everyone involved for a fabulous experience! Mary Cox, Principal – Nuckols Farm Elementary

  17. Sec’y Duncan shared some impressive comments at the Blue Ribbon ceremony and his answers to pointed questions were honest and sincere. I am glad he mentioned that teaching is both intellectual and from the heart. The business of education is both craft and art, led by many talented teachers. American educators are working incredibly hard to improve academic performance while providing equal doses of esteem and confidence building, often performing duties usually completed at home. I urge all politicians who approve funds, create programs or have any influence on supporting our schools to step into the classroom and see, first hand, the magic teachers perform every day.

  18. We were proud to be one of the 314 “National Blue Ribbon Schools.” The ceremony was a welcomed event especially after experiencing the devestation our communities had to deal with. I am proud to be part of a community that truly puts children first!!
    Great Job Aba Kumi
    Principal PS 191, Queens N.Y.

  19. It was a rewarding experience attending the Blue Ribbon Ceremony. I appreciated Sec. Duncan’s honest and straight forward answers to the questions asked especially my question.

  20. LaSalle Academy in South Bend is considered to be the school for the “gifted and talented,” all students are gifted and talented. It is too bad that a student has to be accepted in a particular school to be considered gifted and talented. Is this segregating.

    I spoke to a student who shared with me that LaSalle is for the smart kids, I told him that he was smart, and not to let anyone make him feel otherwise.

    I is easy to become a blue ribbon school, when a district scims the cream of the crop and send them to the same school and the adminstration and school board does whatever it can to maintain it. Oletha

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