Home Haddonfield News J.F. Tatem named a Blue Ribbon School

J.F. Tatem named a Blue Ribbon School

Principal Donnetta Beatty reflects on how it achieved the award

Emily Liu/The Sun
Teachers were asked to stand and be recognized for contributing to a Blue Ribbon School designation at J. F. Tatem Elementary School.

J. Fithian Tatem Elementary School held an end-of-the-year celebration on Dec. 21 to mark its prestigious designation as a National Blue Ribbon School.

According to the U.S. Department of Education website, up to 420 schools each year are nominated to apply for the award, which recognizes exemplary high-performing schools. The Blue Ribbon website notes that “National Blue Ribbon Schools serve as models of effective and innovative school practices for state and district educators and other schools throughout the nation.”

Following its nomination, Tatem completed an application and sent essays and other data to the U.S. Department of Education before learning on Sept. 19 that it had won.

Tatem’s principal Donnetta Beatty attributed the school’s success to its teachers and active community. Beatty has been principal for the past two years, and she recalled learning a lot about Tatem by working with the team of teachers and administrators who put together essays to submit for the award.

“One of the things that I think is most telling for me is just the communal spirit,” Beatty noted. “I came in when I was principal two years ago, and I felt the family atmosphere from the staff right away.”

In meeting residents, Beatty acknowleged that she felt welcomed and noted that the community “really gets together to help each other out.”

“It sounds cliche, but it really takes a village,” she pointed out. “And when the parents are truly invested in wanting to do the small things, like coming in and putting up a bulletin board with an inspirational message, from that to all of the big things like the Tatem Fair …

“They want to be a part, they want to make the kids feel good, to feel successful, to feel at home.”

In November, Beatty and Superintendent Chuck Klaus attended the National Blue Ribbon Schools Recognition Ceremony in Washington D.C., where they met with other Blue Ribbon schools and received a plaque and flag.

During Tatem’s celebration, Beatty made sure to recognize teachers and staffers for their support of students. She also makes sure to regularly check in with teachers so they have what they need. This year, the school added the new activity, Wellness Wednesdays.

“When you have a happy staff, a staff that feels good being here, and knowing that the things that they need to make them not only do well in the classroom, but also be a good person out here – the whole mind, body and spirit – they’re going to be more effective,” Beatty explained.

“So that’s one of my primary jobs – and also making sure the kids are happy.”

Beatty wants to change the mentality that a principal is someone kids see only when they do something wrong, or that the principal is a scary person. She wants students to know that “the principal is someone who has their back and is in their corner.”

Beatty makes herself accessible by going out at lunch and recess and high-fiving students as they arrive each morning. She wants the kids to see her as a trusted individual.

“The principal is someone who has their back, who’s in their corner,” she related. “You can come and see me, tell me things, share. I’m here for you too …

“I am an advocate for them as well,” Beatty added, “and I feel like a lot of them understand it. And that makes them feel good about their day.”

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