ALTON — Alton Central School has the “whole package” going for it, said Ken Darsney. That’s why he and other representatives visited the school yesterday and, at the tail-end of a previously-scheduled assembly, they burst onto the floor, ringing bells, to announce that ACS had been selected as the 2019 K-8 School of Excellence.
The honor, given out by the New Hampshire Excellence in Education Awards, marks the end of a months-long process that began in the fall, when the school sent a letter requesting to be considered for the honor. Alton was one of the many schools that were invited to present before the selection committee in Concord, then one of the few the committee wanted to visit.
Finally, said Principal John MacArthur, he got a call from the ‘Edies’ committee that they would be visiting on Tuesday afternoon for a special announcement.
At the assembly, which included a preview of the band and chorus concert on Thursday evening, and an announcement that Superintendent Pam Stiles had been named Administrator of the Year by the NH Association of Educational Office Professionals, Darsney and company entered the gymnasium through a side door, ringing old-fashioned school bells and carrying a banner that read, “New Hampshire Excellence in Education.”
“Each and every one of you deserves to be proud that you are part of a winning organization and part of an excellent K-8 school,” Darsney told the 450 students in the gymnasium. In addition to the announcement at the assembly, representatives from the school will be invited to an annual banquet – funded by The Napoli Group of McDonald’s restaurants – in Concord. “We’re going to tell everyone that what you’re doing in Alton, New Hampshire, is the best for you kids.”
After the assembly, Darsney said that Alton Central impressed by doing many things well.
“They have the whole package. Instruction, community support, the way that they provide for the individual needs of all learners. There’s a lot of spirit, there’s a lot of innovation going on here,” Darsney said. “It really is the whole thing, and the community support is really evident.”
This is not the first time that Alton Central has applied. MacArthur said the school also sent in a letter of nomination last year.
“We just decided, let’s try it one more time and see what happens,” MacArthur said. He said he feels the school improved over the two years, and that it will continue to do so.
“Honestly, I feel that our school is constantly improving and evolving… We are absolutely working to provide the very best for our students here in Alton. The work is never done, we are always working to do better, to be better, because our kids deserve it.”
MacArthur, a former music educator and band leader, is only in his second year as Alton’s principal, but he said he has felt “welcomed and embraced” by the close-knit community.
“Without the support of the community, we wouldn’t have what we have. We wouldn’t have the opportunities we have for our students. Our community has high standards for our education and they’re willing to support what it takes to provide that.”
Stiles, Alton's superintendent, said being named a "School of Excellence" is like the "icing on the cake."
"You're working hard during the year, knowing that the things you are doing are right," she said. "But it's nice to get that outside affirmation."