Tuesday was a day to celebrate at Bell Central School Center.
Faculty and staff gathered an assembly of students in the gym to reveal that the school has the second highest KPREP scores in the state at the middle school level.
In addition Bell Central earned a five-star rating at the middle school level — one of only 56 schools at any level across the state to have a five-star rating. Bell Central’s elementary earned a three-star rating.
“We are ecstatic at Bell Central,” Principal Jennifer Blankenship said. “We love our kids, we believe in our kids. There was no doubt in mind they could do this. We tell our kids that they are more than a test score and we feel that truly in our hearts.”
Bell County superintendent Yvonne Gilliam and former Bell Central principal Greg Wilson were among those in attendance at Tuesday’s assembly.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the Bell Central Middle School Bulldogs!” Gilliam said. “My congratulations to you on being number two in the state of Kentucky and my best wishes for your continued success!”
All of the students currently attending Bell Central were brought in to the assembly along with ninth graders who represented Bell Central during last spring’s testing.
Staff members lifted boxes to unveil star-shaped balloons — three for the elementary school and five for the middle school — to show the stars Bell Central received at each level.
They also lifted a large box in the center of the gym to unveil a big balloon shaped like the number two as the students were told they had placed second in the state.
A confetti cannon was shot off and staff members sprayed silly string as the students celebrated.
The staff put together a video to show the kids before last year’s testing.
“At the end I left a little message for them and we said: ‘Just show us what you know,’” Blankenship said. “And boy did they show what they know. They are phenomenal. I love these kids, they are great.”
The KPREP testing measures proficiency in reading and math. The star rating takes those into account along with academic indicators in Science, Social Studies and Reading; growth in scores and the size of gaps between test groups are also considered along with attendance.
“Technically you could still be second in the state and be a four star, but we are second in the state and are a five star,” Blankenship explained.
She also told the middle schoolers that she considers them the top public middle school in the state.
“We came in second in the state, but in our eyes we’re first in the state. We lost, if you will, to a magnet school in Lexington that has 100-percent gifted and talented students. They have to apply to attend there in the creative and performing arts.
The have 7 or 8 percent free and reduced lunch compared to our 80 percent free and reduced lunch,” Blankenship explained. “Bell Central has just proven that it doesn’t matter where you are at in the state of Kentucky. When teachers care about you and students believe in themselves great things can and will happen.”
She said the key to achieving the high scores was all about relationships with students.
“Our faculty and staff make sure that our students know that they are loved and cared for. We go to their ballgames, when they graduate as seniors we’re there to support them because once a Bulldog, always a Bulldog.”