Cathedral seeks its fourth National Blue Ribbon

STEM director prepares application that is due Jan. 7

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Nicholas Rodecap

Cathedral High School, a three-time National Blue Ribbon award winner, is applying for the award for the fourth time.

Nicholas Rodecap, Co-Editor-in-Chief

For the first time since the Obama administration, Cathedral High School will enter the competition to be named a National Blue Ribbon School. 

The accolade, which recognizes high achieving exemplary private schools and public schools alike, has been awarded to the Irish three times.. The school earned the distinction in 1988, 2004, and most recently in 2016. 

“Any school can only apply after five completed years (after they have received the award),” said STEM director Dr. Aarti Brooks. “If you’ve received it before, it makes it harder to get it again. We’re already in a tough spot,” she said. 

The award recognizes a maximum of 420 schools nationwide, though that has never happened. Additionally, with at most 50 of those recognition being private schools, the competition is steep. 

“In Indiana in the 2021 application, no high schools got (the award),” Brooks said. The selection process is lengthy, and Brooks described it as a “year-long process with lots of waiting.” On Jan. 7, the Council for American Private Education (CAPE) will receive applications from all schools and review the applications for data accuracy. 

“(Verifying) our data is a huge part (of the process,  which I’m working on right now,” Brooks said. 

Also involved in this part of the process is creating narratives that seek to distinguish schools from their counterparts. “In a sense, we’re selling our school and showing how awesome we are,” Brooks said. Specific requirements include a strict 400-word limit, and narratives are examined with a fine-tooth comb by English professors and other members of a committee, which is a process that takes up approximately two months. 

In a sense, we’re selling our school and showing how awesome we are.”

— STEM director Dr. Aarti Brooks

In February, the schools moving on in the process will be notified by CAPE via email and informed of any flaws in their application that should be rectified.

Conversely, schools that do not move on will also be notified. Then in April, CAPE will hand over all materials to the United States Department of Education, whose secretive review process contains details not known by Brooks. “All we know is we find out in September (2022). Then, in November, the award winners go out to Washington, D.C. to receive their recognition,” she said. 

There are currently three schools in Indiana that have received the award at least three times, with those schools being Roncalli High School (three times), Cathedral High School (three times) and Trinity School at Greenlawn, the latter of which is a private school in South Bend that serves grades 6-12. They have won the award four times, making them the only school of any kind in the state to do so. 

If Cathedral is named a Blue Ribbon School in September, the Irish could be part of an elite club: “We would be the only high school, grades 9 to 12, that has gotten it four times in Indiana,” Brooks said. “Roncalli hasn’t gotten it since 2003, and Trinity hasn’t gotten it since 2013. That would set us apart a little bit,” she said.

To further differentiate Cathedral from other schools across the country, fewer than 1 percent of schools that have ever applied for and earned the distinction have received it more than once. Cathedral has received it three times as much. 

With the inaugural class of Blue Ribbon Schools being recognized in 1982, the schools selected next September will mark the 40th anniversary of the award. “You think about how many times (Cathedral) could have gotten it from the point where it started; I think it’s 7 or 8, and we’ve already gotten it three times,” Brooks said. “That’s significant.”