After years of hard work, Skinner North Classical School students and staff earned a slot in the upper ranks of schools nationally, when they formally joined the ranks of National Blue Ribbon Schools at a ceremony in the nation’s capital.

The National Blue Ribbon Award recognizes schools that have achieved exemplary academic excellence, or made major strides in closing the achievement gap. Skinner is one of just 329 schools nationwide to receive the honor from the U.S. Department of Education this year.

Skinner North, led by Ethan Netterstrom and Katie Magnuson, is a Level 1+ school and has an exceptional academic record. But students and families will tell you that its true success isn’t found in the test scores.

Nicole Heller, Chair of the Local School Council, travels at least 40 minutes a day to bring her son to Skinner North, despite the fact that he was accepted into a highly rated CPS school across the street from her house.

skinnernorth-1094Why? Because in her words, walking into the building at Skinner North each day is like getting a giant hug.

Heller’s son has a physical challenge, but because of the inclusive nature of this school, he has never been made to feel odd, isolated, or even all that different from his classmates.

One reason is undoubtedly Skinner North’s tremendous diversity. Students come from all over the city, representing numerous languages, religions, ethnicities, and diverse learning needs. They are proud of their uniqueness, and of the fact that every child who walks through their doors is made to feel at home.

skinnernorth-1016-2The philosophy at Skinner North centers on collaboration, with students establishing their own behavior standards and helping shape the trajectory of their school days. This partnership extends to families as well, who have played an active role in developing this school since it opened in 2009.

Parents tell you that when they bring an idea to a Skinner North teacher or administrator, they feel as though they are truly being heard, and that their children’s educators say “Yes” far more often than they say “No.”

Next time you go by Skinner North, you’ll see a telltale blue flag, a Symbol and recognition that the students of Chicago Public Schools are capable of reaching our nation’s top ranks.