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WES earns international reading award

Westside Elementary School has earned the prestigious Exemplary Reading Award for the state of Alabama from the International Reading Association, given to the one school in the state with the best overall reading program. The school received the good news on Friday.

The Exemplary Reading Award is given to one school from each participating state that has the most outstanding reading and language arts programs. In all, 34 states and four Canadian provinces and areas take part.

Award nominees are all public, private and parochial schools in the U.S. and Canada. To be eligible for the Exemplary Reading Award, the state or province in which the school is located must have an Exemplary Reading Program Award committee in place and the school must have at least one faculty or staff member be a current International Reading Association member.

“This began in the fall with an application to the International Reading Association,” said WES principal Connie Brown. “From those applications, there was a selection process where they sent back the finalists to the state. We were one of four finalists, and we had a visiting team come to our school on Jan. 28. They spent several hours with us, visiting classrooms and the library and talking with the reading coaches (Debbie Butler and James Pope). Then, they told us we would hear something in March.”

The award marks the progress made over several years and the hard work put in by WES teachers and staff.

“This is not for the efforts of the staff for this year,” Brown said. “This is recognizing the work of Mrs. (former WES principal Mary) Glass — I would say for the last three to five years. It’s not just one year. I didn’t just happen overnight.

“It’s recognition for all of the hard work and extra effort of the teaching staff and reading coaches here, from one day to the next, from one year to the next.”

Demopolis City Schools superintendent Dr. L. Wayne Vickers was beside himself with pride in the school’s achievement.

“It has been an outstanding year,” he said, referring to Demopolis High School opening the school year by earning the No Schools Left Behind Blue Ribbon Award. “We have an outstanding school system, and an outstanding representation with our four schools.

The award will be officially presented in Minneapolis on May 3.