This one was for the kids.
“Last year we wanted to entertain the parents. This year we wanted to entertain the kids,” O’Loughlin Elementary School Principal Vicki Gile said after an afternoon celebration that featured the school’s new eagle mascot, a fun video by teachers and staff, and O’Loughlin moms as cheerleaders.
It was all to congratulate the students and staff on being named a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education, one of 362 in the nation and six in Kansas.
“We’re going to celebrate how successful all of you students are,” Gile said at the beginning of the assembly in the gymnasium that included a large group of parents. “You guys are so good at learning and so good at cooperating and so good at showing determination, responsibility and accountability.”
Gile also thanked the students’ families, teachers, paraprofessionals and staff.
“It is so important that our parents are engaged with you guys. You could not be as successful as you are if you wouldn’t have those parents that get you up and get to school every day. They help you, they ask you about your homework, they make sure you read every night, and so without them, you wouldn’t be so successful,” she said.
O’Loughlin was recognized for its high performance of students on state assessments. The minimum criteria for whole school performance, according to the U.S. Department of Education, is to be in the top 15 percent in the state for reading and math performance.
The school also received the Blue Ribbon award in 1993, three years after O’Loughlin opened.
This is the second year in a row the school has celebrated a big award. Last year, O’Loughlin was one of 100 schools in the country to be named a Distinguished School by the National Association of Elementary and Secondary Education Act State Program Administrators, based on exceptional student performance for two consecutive years.
Friday, as students — all wearing blue O’Loughlin Eagles t-shirts — filed into the school gym, they were greeted with high fives by Hays USD 489 Superintendent Ron Wilson.
He spoke to the crowd with the help of a third-grade class, each holding a blue paper with a letter printed on it.
“Each of the letters is going to help me talk about something about this award and why this is so special,” he said.
U stood for “you” are the reason O’Loughlin won the award, he explained. And he continued — T for team, C for cool, continuing through 13 more letters. At the end, he shuffled the kids around until they spelled “congratulations.”
School Board President Mike Walker spoke to the crowd, and they also heard from Sen. Jerry Moran in a video, both noting their children had attended O’Loughlin.
“I’m always proud of what happens in Hays. It matters greatly to me, and I just want to say thank you to the educators who are making a difference in the classrooms of O’Loughlin Elementary, and I want to say congratulations to the students for all the learning that’s taking place there,” Moran said.
Teachers and staff also prepared a video congratulating the students, using Snapchat filters with funny masks or distorted their faces and voices that made the kids scream with laughter.
A group of six mothers of O’Loughlin students performed as a cheerleading team, including stunts like a pyramid and carrying the eagle mascot so it could “soar” around the gym.
After the indoor assembly, as students and staff filed outside, they were greeted by a gauntlet of parents applauding and offering high-fives, then gathered for an all-school photo taken by a drone operated by Hays High School’s Tribe Broadcasting.
Gile challenged students, teachers and parents and even a Hays police officer to a hula-hooping contest. Finally, back in their classrooms, students were treated to a snack of cookies.