Staff Photo: John Bohn State Superintendent John Barge greets Emma Claire Fakier, 11, left, and Athena Marlin, 10, second from left, during a visit to Simpson Elementary School in Peachtree Corners on Wednesday. Superintendent Barge honored the school for being named a 2012 National Blue Ribbon School. The students shown are student council ambassadors.
PEACHTREE CORNERS -- During a visit to recognize Simpson Elementary on Wednesday, State Superintendent John Barge congratulated students for being named a 2012 National Blue Ribbon Winner: an exclusive honor given to only eight schools statewide.
"You are the absolute cream of the crop, the best of the best and we are here to celebrate with you," Barge told a massive group of pupils in the school cafeteria. He went on to explain that Simpson's students scored among the top 10 percent in the state as an exemplary high-performing school.
But sometimes the best way to get a point across is ice cream.
As a corporate sponsor of the National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence Award, Blue Bell Creameries brought enough of the frozen treat to go around. Following Barge's speech, company representative Chris Elliot told students they "deserve a pat on the back, and a pat on the back at Blue Bell means we're going to give you some ice cream. Good job, guys."
It was a well-deserved salute, said Principal Bron Gayna Schmit.
"Getting an honor like this takes hard work, but it also takes more than hard work to be a winner," said Schmit, prompting students to recite the following in unison, their voices booming throughout the cafeteria:
"A leader does the right thing even when no one is watching,"
Associate Superintendent Steve Flynt was "very impressed" by the students at Simpson Elementary.
"Being recognized as one of the best schools in the nation doesn't happen unless students are engaged and love what they do, and I can tell that you guys do," Flynt said.
Several young people designated as Student Leaders ushered guests like Flynt and Barge to their seats prior to the ceremony.
Student Leaders Joshua Underwood and Zachary Johnson, both 11, said they were glad to be able to help out. "It's pretty cool," Underwood said. "It's a lot different than the usual visitors you get at the school."
Like many other students and nearly every teacher at Simpson, the two young men sported blue T-shirts as a tribute to their accolades.
Simpson was recognized in the Exemplary High Performing category, meaning that it is among Georgia's highest performing schools as measured by state and national assessments.
The blue ribbon distinction also goes to schools with at least 40 percent of students from disadvantaged backgrounds that have shown big improvements in student performance.
Simpson, however, was honored for its consistently successful student body.
In light of the achievement, School Board Member Mary Kay Murphy -- whose district includes the school -- encouraged children Wednesday to keep up the good work.
"Now, the eyes of the nation are on Simpson," Murphy said. "You've made us proud."
Schmit echoed those statements.
"You are my pride and joy," she told the group of young people. "A state superintendent visited us today because he believes in what we do."