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Students at Ocean Drive Elementary walk to their assigned buses on Tuesday afternoon. Their school received a National Blue Ribbon Award last week, the nation's highest honor. Photo by Ruben Lowman

Ocean Drive Elementary receives highest national honor

By Ruben Lowman

North Myrtle Beach’s Ocean Drive Elementary was named a National Blue Ribbon School last Thursday by the Department of Education, the highest achievement a school can receive.

The school, located on 11th Avenue North between Highway 17 and Ocean Boulevard, is just the fourteenth in Horry County to earn the distinction.

Ocean Drive Elementary Principal Renea Fowler said that her school was extremely honored to get such a coveted award, especially for her teachers and faculty to be recognized for their hard work and dedication in educating and enriching their students.

Fowler explained that the school got nominated by the state committee earlier this year and then submitted their application as part of a lengthy process that eventually led to them receiving the Blue Ribbon.

Fowler said that, “It dealt with many different aspects of the school. Our population, our achievement data, it dealt with our parents’ involvement, our community involvement, all different parts.”

The application and nomination process began earlier in the year before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and immediately altered how schools all over the world operated, Fowler explained, and is divides schools between two categories: Exemplary High Performing or Exemplary Achievement in Closing the Achievement Gap.

O.D. Elementary received the distinction of Exemplary High Performing, which is identified by measuring in the highest 15 percent on standardized testing for English and math.

Fowler said that she threw a little socially-distanced boxed luncheon celebration for her teachers and faculty on Friday, after treating everyone to a Mr. Softee ice cream cone on Thursday upon finding out they had won.

“I decorated the cafeteria and the theme was superheroes,” Fowler said. “So we had a superheroes luncheon and we were able to provide teachers with a few minutes to come to eat up front in the cafeteria area that was decorated. And we just had a nice little celebration to get away and say thank you.”

The annual Blue Ribbon Awards Ceremony will be held virtually this year on November 12 and 13.

Faculty members of O.D. Elementary accompany students to their correct bus after school let out this Tuesday afternoon. O.D. Elementary is located on 11th Avenue North between Highway 17 and Ocean Boulevard. Photo by Ruben Lowman

The Ocean Drive Elementary School principal said that she was extremely honored to be nominated by the state as part of a select few schools that merit such an esteemed award.

“To say national, it is just huge. And there were only six schools in the state that were awarded a National Blue Ribbon and five of those were public schools and one of them was private,” Fowler explained. “And again, the honor in it is to be nominated by your state to the national committee, which is huge for us.”

Fowler said that while she was extremely appreciative of the honor personally, she wanted all the acclaim to go to her teachers and faculty.

“Well, of course, to have my school recognized nationally is just phenomenal, but I’m not one that likes to take any of the credit,” she said. “I give all the credit to my teachers, the staff that works with my teachers, our custodial, our cafeteria, even our bus drivers. They weren’t able to come to the luncheon but they were able to come for Mr. Softee. If you don’t bring everybody as part of it, you are missing a link. One thing that I strive for is to give them all the praise and glory.”

Fowler described how the school runs like a well-oiled machine and said that this award came just at the right moment.

“The glory is in the teachers getting this at this time, our community getting this at this time when we’re having to take different avenues with our educational scheduling, and so it has just been huge for us.”

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