Steamboat Springs Strawberry Park Elementary School on Thursday became the first school in Routt County to receive an excellent rating in the Colorado School Accountability Reports.
Excellent is the highest of five ratings the state awards.
Strawberry Park Principal John DeVincentis found out Monday his school had received the award, but the state did not make the ratings public until Thursday. DeVincentis said it was hard to wait to share the news with his teachers, students and parents.
Teachers celebrated during the Thursday morning staff meeting.
"Our teachers have worked super hard," DeVincentis said. "The teachers, staff, parents, kids : it was their efforts and they have done a great job. I am just a small part of that."
Only 143 of the state's 1,700 schools earned an excellent rating, meaning Strawberry Park ranked among the top 8 percent in the state. Just 64 elementary schools received an excellent rating.
The Steamboat Springs School District's three other schools were all rated high, the second-highest rating the state awards.
It was the same rating the schools received last year.
"I am very proud of staff and their hard work on behalf of the children in our schools," Superintendent Cyndy Simms said.
In its first year, the North Routt Charter School received an average rating. The school had just 12 students for the 2001-02 school year.
"The North Routt Charter School overcame all of the first-year start-up challenges to turn in a respectable average rating on its first report card," said Paul Fisher, president of the Steamboat Springs School Board, which oversees the charter school. "The school's goals are to continually improve and cross the next threshold as well."
The state accountability reports are based on the Colorado Student Assessment Program scores of third- through 10th-graders and the ACT scores of juniors taken last school year. Schools are ranked as excellent, high, average, low or unsatisfactory.
Just 49 schools in the state earned unsatisfactory ratings.
Strawberry Park's excellent score has an added significance for DeVincentis, who has been embroiled in a dispute with Simms over his evaluation. Last month, DeVincentis appealed the evaluation, which included at least nine unsatisfactory or needs improvement scores. Simms also withheld a board-approved salary increase for DeVincentis and did not award him a pay-for-performance bonus.
After hearing DeVincentis' appeal, the board awarded DeVincentis his pay-for-performance bonus and his salary increase. The board removed comments Simms made in DeVincentis' evaluation but upheld the scores she gave him.
Parents of students at Strawberry Park formed a group called Parents for Dr. D to support DeVincentis. The group recently changed its name to Citizens for Education.
DeVincentis said he hopes the rating can help put the focus back on his staff and his school instead of his disagreement with his evaluation.
"I think (the rating) just speaks for itself," DeVincentis said. "All this other stuff isn't important; it's the minor stuff. It's too bad it has turned the attention away from looking at what the school is accomplishing."
The excellent designation means Strawberry Park is a winner of the John Irwin School of Excellence Award. It is the third time in five years the school has received the award.
DeVincentis said the school was just five test scores away from reaching the excellent mark last year, the first time the state report cards were released. He thought the school had a chance to attain the excellent mark this year.
Although a specific percentile is not designated for getting an excellent rating, DeVincentis said Strawberry Park had the 46th highest score out of the state's 1,080 public elementary schools and charter schools.
"To me that is exceptional," DeVincentis. "But here I am sitting (in my office) and there is teaching going on in the classrooms. And that is where it is happening."
DeVincentis said he still questions the state's practice of placing such an importance on school ratings and CSAP scores. He said the state has too narrow of a focus and should look at schools meeting their set goals instead.
"I am glad we have gotten excellent," he said, "but I still think it is not a fair way to judge schools."
The school report cards also show how each school fared against its 10 nearest counterparts.
And the report cards have information on each grade's performance on the CSAP, school history, staff and safety and school environments.
School District Administrative Assistant Anne Muhme said the district will mail report cards to all parents in the district. A complete report card for every school in Colorado can be found on the state's Web site at www.state.co.us/schools.