The U.S. Department of Education's Blue Ribbon Award is a major honor that's hard to come by, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson said Thursday.
Only 304 schools across the nation and seven in Georgia earned the distinction last year, and one of them was in Gainesville.
"It's great to be here on campus and share this excitement," Isakson said during a ceremony Thursday at Gainesville High School.
The Georgia senator presented the 2010 Blue Ribbon award to Gainesville High School Principal Chris Mance in a gymnasium filled with parents, teachers, town officials and students.
Isakson said it was the school's vision and ability to involve the entire community that led to its success.
"Everyone is important to education, including students, parents, staff and the board of education. A team has to come together to earn Blue Ribbon recognition," he said.
Gainesville High staff received word of the award last fall, and Mance flew to Washington, D.C., in November for a national Blue Ribbon ceremony.
Mance said Thursday's assembly was a chance to share the honor with the whole community.
"This is a great feeling. The community values education and we as stewards are trying to perform at a high level. The result is this recognition," Mance said.
Only 6,481 schools have earned Blue Ribbon status.
Schools must be high performing or have made significant progress in student achievement, especially among disadvantaged or minority students.
Mance said high test scores and graduation rates also contributed to last year's Blue Ribbon nod.
In his speech, Isakson credited the students for their hard work and dedication. He told them respect for others and keeping sight of their dreams will help give them a happy life.
"Those are things that teachers are here for, that's what principals dream for every day and that's what parents hope for everyday because to your parents, you are their dream," Isakson said.
According to the U.S. Education Department Blue Ribbon website, the effects of the award in schools and communities is significant.
The award can be a selling point for local Realtors and many Blue Ribbon schools find they more easily attract business partners. It also boosts student pride and staff confidence.