Standing in the late afternoon sunshine in the new library at Lake Braddock Secondary School, it was difficult for principal Linda Burke to contain her joy.
"We are so elated with the results of our renovation so far," she said, adding that two-thirds of the project remain to be completed. But her ear-to-ear grin wasn't just the result of a new library: Lake Braddock recently earned the National PTSA School of Excellence award for parental involvement.
"Good schools have supportive parents," said Burke, to a group of about 50 parents, teachers and elected officials Wednesday, Sept. 7. "Great schools have supportive parents and a community that is willing to work hard to support their school. I'm honored to serve in this school and this community and I'm so proud of our teamwork.
As the school's PTSA president, Trenda Jacocks said the ceremony recognizing the school's achievement was "a celebration of all we've done together. This is the result of hours and hours of dedicated research and work, and the entire community is a part of this achievement," she said.
"We have set the standard for years to come. This is now a goal for us to maintain," Jacocks said. "There's a solid foundation of parental involvement here, and community involvement is a way of life for us."
Much has happened at the school in the past year, when the library existed only as blueprints and the application for the School of Excellence for Parental Involvement was just a pile of papers, said Jenifer Rudebush, chair of the committee that worked to compile the application. "Lake Braddock achieved this distinction because of the hard work of countless parents over the course of many years," she said.
Also on hand to congratulate the school were U.S. Rep. Tom Davis (R-11) and his wife, state Sen. Jeanmarie Devolites Davis (R-34), who applauded the school's commitment to the inclusion of parents in the educational process.
"This award demonstrates tremendous amount of parent involvement, as shown by the test scores and great things going on outside academia," said Davis, presenting the school with a flag he had flown over the Virginia Capitol in Richmond.
"Having served on PTA boards, I know what a great achievement this is," said Devolites Davis. "If all schools had the level of parent involvement this school does, we wouldn't have to spend so much time and money in the Senate fighting gangs and crimes," she said.
Prior to her election to the Fairfax County School Board, Catherine Belter served on local, state and federal PTA boards. "If you have a good group of parents ... involved in a school, you will have a lot of good things going on," she said. "If we offer our students the tools they need to make things happen at school, good things will happen in our community. This is a wonderful opportunity for everyone to look around and see what we can do in our schools."
Fairfax County has traditionally set higher than average goals for its schools, said School Superintendent Jack Dale. "These goals push us to levels of excellence we not try to otherwise achieve. Sometimes we do get to a level where we can't get any higher, but we don't want to slide backwards either," he said.
Nationally, 571 schools have been named Schools of Excellence by the PTSA, said Ramona Morrow, president of the Virginia PTA. Two other schools in Fairfax County have achieved this recognition, Hayfield and Marshall high schools, she said.