Frank Defino Central Elementary School awarded Blue Ribbon honor


MARLBORO — The Frank Defino Central Elementary School, Route 79, which educates children in kindergarten through fifth grade, has earned a national Blue Ribbon award in recognition of high student achievement for 2022, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona announced.

Nine schools in New Jersey achieved Blue Ribbon status in the most recent round of recognition, according to a press release from the New Jersey Department of Education.

The recognition is based on one of two categories: a school’s overall academic performance or a school’s progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups, according to the National Blue Ribbon Schools website.

Defino Elementary’s Blue Ribbon award is for overall academic performance.

Regarding the national honor the school has received, Marlboro K-8 School District Superintendent of Schools Eric Hibbs said, “I am so excited the United States Department of Education has recognized the hard work and accomplishments of the students and staff of our Frank Defino Central Elementary School.

“Defino Central was nominated for being an exemplary high performing school and this is all due to the hard work of our incredible students and staff.

“Defino staff are committed to going above and beyond for our students and families. It is truly a building where students and staff experience the joy of learning each and every day,” Hibbs said.

David Stratuik has been the school’s principal for four years. He called the Blue Ribbon recognition an honor for the school.

Stratuik said the application process for the award was extensive and the principal said he included the teaching staff in that process.

He cited the school’s Teacher Passion Projects as a highlight of the building. During their professional development days, teachers select projects about which they are passionate for implementation in the school.

Examples of the Teacher Passion Projects include sensory walls that allow students to “get their wiggles out,” as well as meaningful quotes that have been painted on the walls and are connected to the school’s character education program and book clubs that are focused on relevant education topics, Stratuik added.

“Defino Elementary has been awarded for our academic excellence and consistently high levels of student achievement. We have a phenomenal teaching staff that goes above and beyond; they truly are education superstars.

“This prestigious designation requires support and hard work from so many individuals. We have strong district leadership and outstanding Board of Education support; ensuring that we have the tools we need to support all of our students.

“Our Defino parents and community are always supportive of our efforts to improve Defino and bring new resources and experiences to our school.

“We are also blessed with an incredible parent-teacher organization whose members are all willing to move mountains to make our school the very best it can be,” Stratuik said.

Cardona, the U.S. Secretary of Education, said, “I applaud all the honorees for the 2022 National Blue Ribbon Schools Award for creating vibrant, welcoming and affirming school communities where students can learn, grow, reach their potential and achieve their dreams.

“As our country continues to recover from the (coronavirus) pandemic, we know our future will only be as strong as the education we provide to all of our children.

“Blue Ribbon Schools have gone above and beyond to keep students healthy and safe while meeting their academic, social, emotional and mental health needs. These schools show what is possible to make an enduring, positive difference in students’ lives,” Cardona said.

With its 39th cohort, the National Blue Ribbon Schools program has bestowed approximately 10,000 awards to more than 9,000 schools, according to the press release.

The National Blue Ribbon School award affirms and validates the hard work of students, educators, families and communities in striving for, and attaining, exemplary achievement, according to the press release.

Angelica Allen-McMillan, New Jersey’s acting commissioner of education, said, “We are always glad to celebrate the success of our New Jersey schools and acknowledge their commitment to teaching and learning.

“New Jersey is one of the top states for education because our schools focus on improving the outcomes for all students. I applaud the nine newest Blue Ribbon Schools for their focus on students’ well-being and achievement,” she said.

National Blue Ribbon schools serve as models of effective school practices for state and district educators and for other schools throughout the nation, according to the press release.

The National Blue Ribbon schools are honored at an annual awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. Each school receives a plaque and a flag to signify their status.