Northshore Christian Academy Superintendent Holly Leach was among school staff who went to Washington, D.C., last week to accept a National Blue Ribbon School award. The middle school choir, on stage with Leach, performed during a celebration Wednesday. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Northshore Christian Academy Superintendent Holly Leach was among school staff who went to Washington, D.C., last week to accept a National Blue Ribbon School award. The middle school choir, on stage with Leach, performed during a celebration Wednesday. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Blue Ribbon award for Northshore Christian ‘a really big deal’

Everett academy is only West Coast private school to receive prestigious national recognition in ’19.

It wasn’t a Friday or the day before a holiday break, but at Northshore Christian Academy students were excited all the same. They had something to celebrate — an honor no other private school on the West Coast received this year.

Northshore Christian Academy, near Boeing in Everett, was named a National Blue Ribbon School for 2019 by the federal Department of Education.

“That’s a really big deal,” said Nate Nehring, a Snohomish County Council member.

During the celebration at Northshore Wednesday, Nehring said he was a student there from preschool through middle school. Recalling “free-dress Fridays” and other good times, he described his years at the Christian school as “a great learning experience and a great blessing.”

“It really is a blessing from God,” said Nehring, who went on to Marysville Getchell High School and Western Washington University.

With nearly 1,000 students in kindergarten through eighth grade and an early-learning program, Northshore is one of 362 schools — 50 of them private — recognized this year by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. More than 9,000 schools have received the award since the federal program started in 1982. Awards are based on overall academic excellence or a school’s progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.

Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin, noting that only a half of 1 percent of schools in the country receive the Blue Ribbon award, said the recognition of “this amazing school” also shines a light on “our entire city.”

“Rejoice, rejoice … Can you feel a brand new day?” sang a sixth-grade choir during the gathering of students, teachers and parents in the spacious sanctuary the school shares with Northshore Christian Church.

There were prayers too, and performances by Northshore’s jazz band.

“We know Northshore is stellar. It’s a school led by God,” said Diane Winningham, principal for the school’s kindergarten through second grades and its Early Learning Center director.

Holly Leach, Northshore superintendent, and Winningham were among staff members who accepted the award last week at a ceremony in Maryland, near Washington, D.C. They brought back a National Blue Ribbon School flag and a plaque. Both will be displayed on campus.

“Many people have asked me how and why we received this award,” Leach said. For a school to be nominated for the award by the Council for American Private Education (CAPE), award criteria includes being in the top 15 percent of schools nationwide in reading and math.

For public schools, Blue Ribbon nominations come from members of the Council of Chief State School Officers overseeing education in states, for the Department of Defense, the Bureau of Indian Education and other jurisdictions.

Leach said Northshore stood out due to its faith, fine arts, STEM and school culture. Its Cultural Connection groups include parents who are African-American; Spanish-speaking; of Korean, Slavic and Filipino descent; and those with ties to other parts of the world.

A ministry of the church, the school started in a warehouse, Leach said, and has occupied its current complex since about 2003.

Tuition ranges from $3,170 for half-day pre-kindergarten to $8,525 for sixth through eighth grades, said Michelle Harryman, who handles marketing and Northshore’s website. There are discounts for multiple children in a family and referral rebates, along with tuition assistance, she said.

Three Washington public schools were among the 2019 honorees: Davenport High School, Hilton Elementary School in Zillah, and Bellevue’s International School.

“It was because of your teachers and your hard work,” Leach told students.

At the end of her talk, Franklin suggested that “somebody in this room is going to be the next mayor of Everett.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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