When Dean Schlanger received an email informing him that Manhasset Secondary School had been nominated as a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence last year, he and the school’s administration had one immediate reaction.
“We were really excited,” Schlanger, the school’s principal, said.
What followed was five months of work to complete an exhaustive application for Blue Ribbon status, describing school practices, state assessment performance, graduation rates, curricula and community involvement, among other factors. Schlanger completed it with “a few other administrators.”
“We broke the application down into different parts, and met quite a few times to pull it all together,” Schlanger said. “It’s comprehensive, not a single grammatical error, not a comma out of place.”
The hard work paid off when the U.S. Department of Education named Manhasset Secondary School a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence last week.
The 7-12 school was announced as one of only three schools to receive the honor on Long Island, alongside Bethpage Senior High School and Shoreham-Wading River High School. It was one of 19 schools in New York State and one of over 360 schools nationwide to be honored.
District Superintendent Vincent Butera referred to the award as a “prestigious honor in the world of education” at the district’s Board of Education meeting last Wednesday and applauded Schlanger for his work.
“It really is a reflection of personnel efforts, curriculum efforts, testing results,” Butera said. “Above all, it really is a reflection on the students who do the work that actually results in the accolades the school has gotten, including the work and leadership of Dr. Schlanger at the Secondary School.”
Schlanger, a former counselor, served as assistant principal and then principal at Hauppauge High School before coming to Manhasset 13 years ago.
“Because I’m a former counselor, I pride myself on being very student-centered, I like to get to know them,” Schlanger said. “Most of the students I’ve known since seventh grade, and now they’re seniors looking at different opportunities in terms of colleges. They come in as early adolescents and leave as mature young adults. It’s pretty incredible.”
Schlanger described the reaction from students as “very favorable,” and said that while he had announced the win over the school’s P.A. system, there would be more to come.
“We haven’t done much more than that, but we’re going to look to have it be a community celebration,” Schlanger said. “We’re going to embrace the students, the faculty, the parents, the entire community at large to celebrate this.”
In addition, Schlanger, Butera and science teacher Gary Chen, representing the faculty, will fly to Washington, D.C., for a Department of Education luncheon honoring Blue Ribbon schools on Nov. 15, where the principal says they will receive a plaque commemorating the honor and an American flag.
Schlanger said that the school will also erect a sign honoring its status, as is traditional for schools that receive the Blue Ribbon award. He added that he has yet to find a place for the plaque, but that he’s looking for a “very prominent spot.”
“I haven’t picked out a place yet, because I don’t know how big [the plaque] is,” Schlanger said.