Blue ribbon schools 2022

A+ Schools win national honors

Author: A+ Schools of North Carolina

Two schools in the A+ network have recently received national honors. We congratulate each school’s staff and students on their exemplary work in building a creative and engaging learning environment that helps students enjoy school while achieving success.

W. A. Bess leaders receive their award at the White House
W.A. Bess leaders receive their award at the White House.

W. A. Bess Elementary, in Gastonia, has been named a 2022 National Blue Ribbon School. “This is a very significant recognition both for W. A. Bess Elementary School and Gaston County Schools, and we are proud of this national achievement,” said principal Laura Clark. “Being chosen as a 2022 National Blue Ribbon School is one of the highest, most prestigious honors a school can receive.”

In 2019, W. A. Bess joined the A+ Schools of North Carolina network, becoming the first A+ school in Gaston County. “As an A+ school, our teachers and staff collaborate to instill in our students an understanding of and appreciation for the arts,” Clark said. “Over the past few years, A+ Schools has provided ongoing support and professional development for our teachers to strengthen our creative culture, improve instructional practice, and implement an integrated curriculum that makes learning fun and relevant for our students. A+ Schools has had a direct impact on W. A. Bess Elementary School and our designation as an Exemplary High-Performing School and a 2022 National Blue Ribbon School.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel A. Cardona announced the 297 schools receiving the award in September. It recognizes either outstanding academic performance or progress in closing the achievement gap. 

Principal, Laura Clark, with W. A. Bess students.
Principal, Laura Clark, with W. A. Bess students.

W. A. Bess Elementary is one of only five public schools in North Carolina to be named this year. The school was honored during the National Blue Ribbon School awards ceremony, in Washington, D.C., in early November. “We look forward to celebrating this achievement all year long and letting everyone know that W. A. Bess Elementary, an A+ school in Gastonia, North Carolina, is one of the best schools in the country,” Clark said. 


National ESSA distinguished school

ArtSpace Charter School, in Swannanoa, has been named a 2022 National ESEA [Elementary and Secondary Education Act] Distinguished School. ArtSpace is one of two schools selected to represent North Carolina. The National ESEA Distinguished Schools Program is a project of the National Association of ESEA State Program Administrators (NAESPA), which publicly recognizes qualifying federally funded schools for positive educational advances and the outstanding academic achievement of their students. The school's leadership will attend the national convention in February to share their story and their unique approach to teaching all students.

“Arts integration has been the foundation of our school's success,” said Executive Director Sarena Fuller. “Throughout the portfolio we submitted, we touted the benefits of this model for real student breakthroughs for all students. The arts are critical, and the A+ Essentials created the framework for these methodologies to be successful.” 

Students at ArtSpace Charter School working together.
Students at ArtSpace Charter School working together.

ArtSpace Charter School has been part of the A+ Schools network since 2012 and has been a model for A+ practice and philosophy since then. “This is a prestigious honor at any time, but especially after a few challenging pandemic years,” said Fuller. “Our success is a testament to our staff, students, and parents and guardians, and to the incredible community that supports us, including the A+ network. Thank you, A+!”

Congratulations W. A. Bess Elementary and ArtSpace Charter School!

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