MANKATO — The gymnasium was dark at Kennedy Elementary School, but silhouettes of little bodies could be seen bouncing along to the beat of a song accompanying a film of students and staff.
The entire school sat watching interviews of their own students and teachers talking about what they think makes Kennedy “excellent.” And as the film was wrapping up, and Phillip Phillips’ “Home” kicked in again, students couldn’t contain themselves any longer. A few started clapping along to the beat, then a few more, and then suddenly the whole gymnasium was thundering with applause.
The school had a lot to celebrate, and Fred Storti — executive director of the Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association — explained why. Seven schools in the state this year were named Minnesota Schools of Excellence. Only 161 schools have earned the designation since the award was founded in 1986.
And Kennedy was one of them.
“You guys gotta be really, really proud of all the work you’ve done,” Storti said.
That much was clear. Each grade stood and performed a Kennedy cheer. The school mascot, a Cub, made an appearance to high-five all the smiling kids. And all students and staff proudly donned bright yellow “School of Excellence: Kennedy Elementary” T-shirts.
“This is a very special day for Kennedy and our Kennedy family,” said Principal Jason Grovom.
Mankato Area Public Schools Supt. Sheri Allen said the award is recognized on the national level, and she congratulated all the students and staff on their hard work. Being a School of Excellence is validation that Kennedy believes in and delivers on the promise that all students can learn and do well in school, she said.
“All means all — all of you, every day,” Allen said. “Way to go, Kennedy Cubs.”
The School of Excellence award goes to schools that undergo a rigorous evaluation process with the principal, staff, students and school community working together to strengthen education. The program includes self-study, and the development and implementation of a school-improvement plan.