TAMPA — A recent designation bestowed on Brooks DeBartolo Collegiate High School confirms what anyone familiar with the 9th- through 12th-grade charter school of choice already knows.
It has been named a 2015 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education based on its academic excellence.
Brooks DeBartolo is among 335 schools in the nation to receive this year’s prestigious award. It also is one of just 10 Florida schools and the only school in Hillsborough County to be recognized.
Founded in 2007 by Hall of Fame Tampa Bay Buccaneer Derrick Brooks and the Edward J. DeBartolo Jr. family, the school has achieved five consecutive “A” grade designations from the Florida Department of Education.
At a school with a diverse ethnic population of 585 students who are encouraged to think critically and challenged to take advanced placement, dual enrollment and honors classes, it’s considered cool to be smart, according to Brooks DeBartolo Principal Kristine Bennett.
“I think the Blue Ribbon award for us is just such an honor for our students, our teachers and our staff,” Bennett said. “The award also confirms what we already know about our school — our high academic standards and high rate of student success.”
David Malliz, chairman of the Brooks DeBartolo Collegiate High School Board of Directors, expressed similar thoughts about the school’s “Blue Ribbon” designation.
“We’re very proud of the award in that it validates all the hard work of the students, staff, administration and the board of directors,” he said. “A lot of dedication has gone into winning this award and it’s been a very collective and collaborative effort.”
Student Council President Haley Spooner, 16, and a junior, is proud to be part of the small-school atmosphere in which students are encouraged to do their best. She and her fellow students were selected via a lottery system at the school, which is nearing its capacity of 600 enrollees.
“What really sets us apart is the great environment. It’s very inclusive and it provides so many opportunities for us,” said Spooner, a New Tampa resident who is in the dual-enrollment program, which allows her to also take college courses.
Bennett and Jeffrey Mitchell, the school’s assistant principal, traveled to Washington, D.C., where they were recognized along with the heads of the other Blue Ribbon award-winning schools.
“Having the honor of being among the people from other schools gave us the opportunity to share our successes and challenges,” Bennett said. “We definitely have some common themes and concerns other schools are facing.”
The National Blue Ribbon Schools program recognizes public and private elementary, middle and high schools for achieving high standards or making significant improvement to their academic status.
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.