Versailles Elementary accepts National Blue Ribbon School award


By Dawn Hatfield

VERSAILLES — Versailles Elementary School has been in celebration mode for much of November. In a prestigious ceremony at the Washington Hilton Hotel, Principal Brenda Braun, Michelle Hartings (K-8 guidance counselor), and Julie McEldowney (grade 4 teacher) accepted the award of National Blue Ribbon School on behalf of all elementary students, faculty, and staff at Versailles.

The 2022 Annual National Blue Ribbon Schools Awards Ceremony on Nov. 3 and 4 recognized 297 public and private schools receiving the award. During this celebratory, two-day event, participants heard from several guest speakers, including Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten, participated in workshops, and engaged in networking discussions. Aba Kumi, director of the National Blue Ribbon Schools (NBRS) program, presided over the luncheon and awards ceremony.

Braun, now in her 20th year as principal at Versailles Elementary, spoke about the experience and what it means to her and the school. She explained only the top 15% of schools are eligible to apply for NBRS status and nomination must come from the state of Ohio. Versailles was eligible based on 2020 student scores, the scores of students who are now fifth- and sixth-graders.

According to, NBRS recognizes schools “where students are relaxed and engaged” and where school leadership “hold[s] everyone to high standards… Mutual respect and trust run deep in their cultures.” The program was originated by Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell in 1982.

In addition to meeting eligibility criteria and submitting demographic data, schools provided an overview and spoke to curriculum and instruction, school climate and culture, and their strategy for academic success.

The application process was “a great reflective activity for staff.” Braun said, “It helped us define what sets us apart, which are our collaborative practices, our COVID resilience, and especially our relentless desire to meet every kid’s needs.”

An excerpt of Versailles Elementary’s application, written by gifted coach Leslie Helman and edited by Braun after receiving input from the VES staff and committee, states, “Versailles Exempted Village School District, over the course of the last eight years, has focused on one mission that guides all decision-making: ‘doing what is best for every student’… By making our decisions intentionally focused on every student, our words, actions, and interactions have become a living testament to our beliefs in helping all students succeed. The simplicity of the motto has been a driving force that has guided our decisions in developing innovative approaches to meeting the needs of students, fostering collaboration between staff, students, families, and the community.”

When Braun was asked what makes VES a Blue Ribbon school in her eyes, she was quick to reply, “You’re not alone here! You can reach out to staff in the building(s), the community, parents—everyone contributes to our success.”

This year, Versailles Elementary also ranked seventh in the state of Ohio. Braun reports future plans include hitting the number one spot in the state. “Our kids, our community, can do that! We work hard to make excellent citizens in Versailles. A lot of our kids stay here. ‘People, pride, progress’ is our town’s motto and also the school’s focus. We will never be done improving,” said Braun.

Braun expressed gratitude to the board of education who made it possible to travel to D.C. “It was never an issue to fly there and stay. We are so supported by the parents and the community,” Braun said.

Versailles is no stranger to the NBRS program as the middle school won the honor in 2014. Braun ended, “I guess it’s the high school’s turn now!”

VES Blue Ribbon Celebration week began on Monday, Nov. 7 with Blue Day, allowing extra blue sky time (recess) where students “blew” bubbles. Other fun events throughout the week featured amazement by magician Rusty Ammerman and entertainment with “Happy Feet,” the movie.

Read the entire Versailles Elementary School Blue Ribbon application at by searching for VES under the Award Recipients menu.

Reach Daily Advocate Reporter Dawn Hatfield at [email protected] or 937-569-0066.

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