Vanderburg Elementary earns Blue Ribbon recognition for top performance

Principal Catherine Maggiore’s office at Vanderburg Elementary School is filled with New York Yankees memorabilia and pictures of shortstop Derek Jeter. But it is a recent addition to the room, a large baby blue plaque, that stands out. It reads: "2012 National Blue Ribbon Schools Award."

Vanderburg, 2040 Desert Shadow Trail, was named one of the top-performing schools in the country by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. There were 269 schools recognized nationwide for sustained academic excellence. Vanderburg was the sole Nevada school to earn the designation.

Maggiore, who has been at the school for 11 years, was quick to deflect any credit for the award.

"I always tell the teachers they make me look good," she said. "They’re just incredible. We have very low turnover."

Maggiore said her school has the three key components that lead to success: effective teachers, motivated students and supportive parents.

One such parent, Allison Stroh, volunteers at the school once a month. She is a single, working mom and still takes a day of vacation to spend at the school.

"Teachers work so hard to show parents how great the school is, and parents bounce back," Stroh said. "It’s kind of infectious. Parents want to be around the school, want to make it better."

Two types of schools are eligible for the Blue Ribbon designation: high-performing schools and improving schools. Improving schools have at least 40 percent of their at-risk students score at high levels in reading and math. High-performing schools, such as Vanderburg, rank near the top on state standardized tests in reading and math. Past schools to win the award are Advanced Technologies Academy, 2501 Vegas Drive; Helen Smith Elementary School, 7101 Pinedale Ave.; and Bendorf Elementary School, 3550 S. Kevin Way.

The Blue Ribbon designation is given to schools that show excellence during the past four years. During the 2010-11 school year, when the latest data was available during the application process last fall, 92 percent of students passed the c riterion-r eferenced t ests in math and reading.

Two-thirds of Vanderburg students are white, 16 percent are Hispanic, 8 percent are Asian and 3 percent are black. The remaining student s’ ethnicities are Pacific Islander or of mixed race. Only 23 of the nearly 800 students are English Language Learners.

Vanderburg is also home to the Rainforest Biosphere, a 3,200-square-foot indoor science facility that houses live animals, artifacts and laboratories. Maggiore said it is the only school-based facility like it in the world. Fourth- and fifth-graders lead tours for younger students, both from Vanderburg and other schools around the Clark County School District.

Maggiore, assistant principal Robin Lott-Lederman and fifth-grade teacher Annelisa Polk are scheduled to fly to Washington, D.C., for a series of events next week at the 30th annual National Blue Ribbon Schools awards ceremony.

Polk, who is in her 14th year at Vanderburg, said she has a different parent volunteering in her classroom every day. Along with being successful at involving families, Polk gave a lot of credit to her colleagues.

"Everyone in this building is here on weekends, before school and after school," she said. "Our parking lot on Sunday looks like a regular school day. Getting the Blue Ribbon was a little bit of acknowledgement."

Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at or 702-224-5524.

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