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Perdue presents Governor’s Cup to Northside, Hawkinsville highs

WARNER ROBINS —

Gov. Sonny Perdue awarded Northside High School the Governor’s Cup and $2,000 for its SAT improvement efforts in a surprise assembly for students Tuesday.

Just as Northside has been recognized throughout the state for its achievements on the football field, it is also known for academics, Perdue said.

“The achievements at Northside have been legendary,” Perdue said. “This is a lifetime achievement for juniors and seniors.”

The Governor’s Cup Challenge was announced in 2003 as an initiative to raise SAT scores across the state, according to a news release from the Houston County Board of Education. Schools compete on three-year average gains on the SAT against similarly sized schools, with winners determined by the largest numerical increase in average SAT scores.

Northside, which received the honor for Class AAAAA schools, improved its SAT score 55 points this year and 56 points last year. Hawkinsville won the Governor’s Cup in its classification and was also visited by Perdue on Tuesday; Perry High School won the Governor’s Cup in 2007 for Class AAA, the news release stated.

State Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox introduced the governor at the assembly. In her years as a teacher, she said she had never seen so much enthusiasm among students at 8 a.m.

“Something special must be going on,” Cox said.

As the governor walked into the gym, the band played and the students yelled, “Go Eagles!”

The Governor’s Cup, a large silver trophy, is just one of many other awards the school has earned throughout the years, Perdue said.

“That’ll take a nice place in the trophy case,” Perdue said. “If not, you could always build a new trophy case.”

The governor said much of the improvement in student scores has been possible with the help of teachers and administrators, who aren’t always recognized for their work.

“They have been hustling and coaching you sometimes,” Perdue said of teachers. “They give you a kick in the pants if needed.”

Perdue also challenged Northside students to continue improvement in SAT scores and receive the award next year. Perdue gave the example of Savannah Arts Academy, which will also receive the Governor’s Cup this year.

“There’s nothing I’d love better than to celebrate with the Northside High Eagles next year,” he said.

Northside also received $2,000, courtesy of corporate sponsor AT&T, toward resources to help boost SAT achievement at the school, and juniors and seniors will receive T-shirts.

Principal Mark Scott beamed about the students’ achievements. This year marks the first time since the 2004-05 school year that the school made Adequate Yearly Progress, he said.

“There’s no place I’d rather be than here,” Scott said. “It’s unprecedented. It’s a great morning to be an Eagle.”

He challenged the current juniors to match the achievements of the senior class.

“I know you’re up to the challenge to make Northside the best school anywhere,” Scott said.

At the end of the assembly, Perdue mentioned that he had also been in Warner Robins on Friday for Mayor Donald Walker’s funeral.

Perdue said that Walker, himself an alumnus of Northside, would have been at the assembly if he were alive to celebrate the school’s achievement.

“He’d be here proud of you,” Perdue said. “We’re proud of you.”

HAWKINSVILLE ALSO HONORED

After paying a visit to Northside, Perdue presented the Governor’s Cup to students at Hawkinsville High School.

“We were just blown away by having such dignitaries come to our school and support academics,” said Mary Royal, principal of Hawkinsville High School, a Class A School with 450 students.

Hawkinsville High School earned an average SAT score of 1,499 over last year’s score of 1,316, Royal said. More than a third of last year’s seniors took the test.

Royal said the boost in scores came from putting an honors program in place and increasing Advanced Placement class offerings.

“Improving the rigor of courses has done more than anything to improve scores,” she said.

The event was billed as an “academic pep rally,” Royal said, and she was glad the school was recognized for its academic achievements, not just its athletic ones.

“For us to be recognized as an academic school is something we’ve wanted,” Royal said. “We want both.”

Royal also attributed the students’ success to shared leadership among teachers, allowing them to make more direct decisions about how to help students.

One example of stronger teacher involvement happened two years ago, when teachers worked together to set up an attendance policy after finding that a large number of students were missing more than 30 days of school.

After developing a plan and presenting it to the school board, an attendance policy was approved and put into place.

Two years ago, the school had 120 students who missed 15 or more days of school. Last year, that number was reduced to 53 students.

“When kids are coming to school, they’re going to learn more,” she said.

The governor was also scheduled to appear at high schools in Savannah and Lexington on Tuesday.

To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 256-9751.

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