Twelve local schools won the U.S. Department of Education’s top honor Thursday, designated by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos as National Blue Ribbon Schools.

Less than one percent of schools nationwide receive the award, given in recognition of overall academic excellence or success in narrowing achievement gaps. In all, DeVos named 362 winners.

“We recognize and honor your important work in preparing students for successful careers and meaningful lives,” she said in announcing the 2019 honors.

The Philadelphia School District’s winners — George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science and Joseph Greenberg Elementary School — were in a state of joy Thursday.

Ted Domers, who’s in his seventh year as principal at Carver, presides over a school of nearly 1,000 seventh through 12th graders. Most live below the poverty line and two-thirds will be the first in their family to attend college.

When Domers welcomes visitors to Carver, he says: “Welcome to the best school in Philadelphia.” The award felt like an affirmation of his staff’s and students’ hard work, Domers said.

One secret to Carver’s success is its robust offerings: 15 Advanced Placement classes and more than 50 after-school clubs and sports teams.

“Every student is attached to something — everyone has a touchstone,” Domers said.

Greenberg, in the Northeast, is home to a large, growing student population. About half of its students live in poverty.

Principal Gina Hubbard, who Thursday registered a new student from Brazil, said the school’s diversity is one of its best features.

If a child is struggling, teachers “look at root causes as to why they’re not learning,” Hubbard said. “Then, they come up with an action plan to help the child meet with success.”

Greenberg often flies under the radar, Hubbard said, but “this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for everyone to see how great your school really is."

Mayor Jim Kenney speaks in front of fellow students, teachers and families during the beginning of the ceremony recognizing Greenberg's status as a 2019 National Blue Ribbon School. It was one of 12 across the region honored with the award, and one of two in Philadelphia.
TYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer
Mayor Jim Kenney speaks in front of fellow students, teachers and families during the beginning of the ceremony recognizing Greenberg's status as a 2019 National Blue Ribbon School. It was one of 12 across the region honored with the award, and one of two in Philadelphia.

Mayor Jim Kenney, on hand for Greenberg’s celebration, told students that educating them is the most important thing the city does.

“We’re so proud of you,” Kenney said.

When the principal made the big reveal, confetti cannons popped and Greenberg’s 800-plus students, sitting on the blacktop schoolyard, erupted into happy screams.

Staff and students at another winning school, Sharp Elementary in Cherry Hill, were similarly elated, principal Ric Miscioscia said. Character education is stressed at Sharp and throughout the district, Miscioscia said.

“We have a mantra of working harder to get smarter. And we know that we don’t do it in isolation,” he said. “We work together for and with each other to improve, not only ourselves, but the immediate world and the greater world around us.”

In Springfield, Delaware County, Sabold Elementary was also recognized as a Blue Ribbon School.

“This honor is symbolic of the determination and commitment to success that our students and staff display on a daily basis," principal Peter Brigg said in a statement.

These local schools received the honor:

In Philadelphia:

— George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science

— Joseph Greenberg Elementary School

In the Pennsylvania suburbs:

— Afton Elementary School in Yardley

— Cardinal John Foley Regional Catholic School in Havertown

— Mary, Mother of the Redeemer School in North Wales

— Sabold Elementary School in Springfield, Delaware County

— Saint Pius X School in Broomall

— Saint Thomas the Apostle School in Glen Mills

— Saints Colman-John Neumann School in Bryn Mawr

— West Vincent Elementary in Chester Springs.

In New Jersey:

— Sharp Elementary School in Cherry Hill

— Radix Elementary in Williamstown, Monroe Township