As students look up at the flagpole throughout the day, they find that below both the star-spangled banner and Florida’s state flag hangs a smaller blue and white flag, celebrating the school’s National Blue Ribbon awards. The school has won twice, with the first coming in 2004 and the latest in 2012. However, Principal Rick Fleming’s excitement stems from the fact that the school appears set to add its third National Blue Ribbon award in 15 years.
“I am honored and proud to work at a school with so many awesome people,” Fleming said. “We are the only high school since the change in criteria in 2003 to be nominated three times, and we are excited to be in that elite echelon for schools.”
Previously, schools were allowed to nominate themselves for the award, but West Shore’s most recent nominations have come from the state.
“Blue Ribbon School is a great honor,” AP World History teacher Kirk Murphy said. “This validates what we’ve been doing for the past 20 years and have been trying to do, and it just shows that we’re successful. So it makes me feel really good.”
Senior Tony Hedrick, who attended the school when it last celebrated a Blue Ribbon Award, remembers a joining in a lighthearted campus-wide celebration in December 2013.
“I thought it was a good cool-down, being so close to Winter Break,” he said. “In the cafeteria they had board games, snacks and were showing the movie ‘Elf.’”
Hedrick said he regrets that as a graduating senior, he will miss next year’s celebration.
Meanwhile, Fleming has continued to heap praise on the people involved with the school.
“We have an amazing family of students, staff, teachers, parents, grandparents and volunteers,” he said. “I think the award has recognized that we have such a powerful school culture and sustained academic performance.”
Fleming holds a strong belief the students who remain at the school will be looking up to a flagpole graced with a banner signifying a new accomplishment.