VIDEO: Pep Rally at W.A. Bess Elementary

  • School in Gaston County achieves coveted national honor 

    W.A. Bess Elementary chosen as a National Blue Ribbon School for the second time

    Gastonia, N.C. – Gaston County Schools has another National Blue Ribbon School!  The U.S. Department of Education announced today that W.A. Bess Elementary School in Gastonia is a 2022 National Blue Ribbon School.  It is the second time that W.A. Bess Elementary has earned the national honor, first winning it in 2006.

    U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel A. Cardona officially announced the winners on September 16, bestowing the recognition this year upon only 297 schools in the nation.  Public and private K-12 schools receiving the honor have shown either outstanding academic performance or progress in closing the achievement gap.  W.A. Bess is one of only five public schools in North Carolina to earn the coveted distinction for 2022.

    “This is a very significant recognition for both W.A. Bess Elementary School and Gaston County Schools, and we are very proud of this national achievement,” said principal Laura Clark.  “Being chosen as a 2022 National Blue Ribbon School is one of the highest, most prestigious honors a school can receive.  It recognizes our teachers, staff, students, and parents as well as our school community for having a long-time commitment to excellence in education and maintaining high academic standards and superior student achievement.  We look forward to celebrating this achievement all year long and letting everyone know that W.A. Bess Elementary in Gastonia, North Carolina, is one of the best schools in the country.”

    W.A. Bess Elementary will be honored during the National Blue Ribbon School awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.  It is scheduled for November 3-4.  A celebration at the school will be held in late November.

    W.A. Bess Elementary School serves approximately 600 students in grades K-5.  The school opened in 1982 and is named for Willard A. Bess, who served as an educator and school administrator for 42 years.  W.A. Bess consistently ranks among the highest-achieving schools in Gaston County with students exceeding academic performance and growth expectations.  The school has been recognized multiple times by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction as a School of Distinction, a School of Excellence, and an Honor School of Excellence.

    In 2019, W.A. Bess became a North Carolina A+ School, the first one of its kind in Gaston County.  As an A+ School, the arts are integrated across the curriculum, and teachers and staff work diligently to instill an understanding of and appreciation for the arts in students.  The belief is that an arts-infused education benefits children not just in school, but throughout life as well since arts education is linked to higher academic achievement, positive social outcomes, and increased civic engagement.

    Superintendent of Schools W. Jeffrey Booker stated, “It is a distinct pleasure to congratulate W.A. Bess Elementary on being named a National Blue Ribbon School for 2022.  This is an accomplishment that all schools strive for, but only a few are chosen.  For W.A. Bess to receive the recognition twice is remarkable since it does not happen often.”  

    Dr. Booker added, “As a National Blue Ribbon School, W.A. Bess Elementary is part of an elite group of schools that are considered to be the most outstanding in our country.  We commend everyone who is and has been connected to W.A. Bess Elementary – this national award belongs to all of you, and it is well deserved.”

    This is the fourth National Blue Ribbon School award for Gaston County Schools since the recognition program began in 1982.  In addition to W.A. Bess Elementary winning the recognition in 2006 and 2022, Highland School of Technology received the national award in 2017.  The former Arlington Elementary School was named a National Blue Ribbon School in 2003; Arlington consolidated with Sadler Elementary School when it opened in August 2004.

    In announcing the National Blue Ribbon School award winners for 2022, Education Secretary Cardona stated, “I applaud all the honorees for the 2022 National Blue Ribbon Schools Award for creating vibrant, welcoming, and affirming school communities where students can learn, grow, reach their potential, and achieve their dreams. As our country continues to recover from the pandemic, we know that our future will only be as strong as the education we provide to all of our children.  Blue Ribbon Schools have gone above and beyond to keep students healthy and safe while meeting their academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs.  These schools show what is possible to make an enduring, positive difference in students’ lives.”

    Cardona added that earning the distinction as a National Blue Ribbon School affirms and validates the hard work of students, educators, families, and communities in striving for – and attaining – exemplary achievement. National Blue Ribbon Schools serve as models of effective school practices for state and district educators and other schools throughout the nation.