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Two Kansas schools recognized as National ESEA Distinguished Schools

Two Kansas schools are being nationally recognized for exceptional student achievement in 2021.

Bertram Caruthers Elementary School, Kansas City Unified School District 500, and Lincoln Memorial Elementary School, Caney Valley USD 436, are both National ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) Distinguished Schools, formerly known as the National Title I Distinguished Schools Program.

The National ESEA Distinguished Schools Program, which is a project of the National Association of ESEA State Program Administrators (NAESPA), has been publicly recognizing qualifying schools for their positive educational advances since 1996. The program showcases the success of hundreds of schools in one of three categories:

  • Category 1: Exceptional student performance and academic growth for two or more consecutive years.
  • Category 2: Closing the achievement gap between student groups for two or more consecutive years.
  • Category 3: Excellence in serving special populations of students.


NAESPA implemented the National ESEA Distinguished Schools Program to highlight selected schools that have successfully used their ESEA federal funds to improve the education for all students. More information about the program is available on the ESEA Network website, www.ESEAnetwork.org.

Lincoln Memorial Elementary School is being recognized in Category 1 (exceptional student performance), and Bertram Caruthers Elementary School is being recognized in Category 2 (closing the achievement gap).

KSDE will provide a small stipend to each school so staff members can attend the hybrid 2022 National ESEA Conference from Feb. 16-19, 2022. The event will be offered online and in New Orleans.

Cameron Traxson is principal at Lincoln Memorial Elementary School, and Blake A. Vargas is superintendent of Caney Valley USD 436.

The school serves 439 students in pre-K through sixth-grade, Vargas said. There are 32 teaching staff and 21 classified/support staff members at the school.

Lincoln Memorial Elementary has a long tradition of success attributed to the comprehensive approach from both the school district and community with the single purpose of creating the best learning environment targeted to the specific needs of the students that it serves.

“When I came to the district three years ago, I realized very quickly that the foundation was already in place to build upon to achieve great success,” Traxson said. “Strong collaboration, community support and a staff that operates as a family has led to an exceptional environment that students thrive in. This, along with a culture that goes beyond the classroom and encompasses the individual growth of each student, makes Caney Valley truly a special place to be.”

The school’s recent addition of Academic, Character and Enrichment Support (A.C.E.S.) after-school program has allowed targeted interventions to take place outside of the traditional school day and year, resulting in performance improvement, as well as increased positive student interactions with staff, Vargas said.

“As the district continually strives for excellence, this honor truly recognizes the variety of stakeholders needed to achieve at a high level for multiple years, reaffirming the district’s commitment to meeting the needs of the individual student while allowing them to pursue their individual passion,” Vargas said.

Molly Struzzo is principal of Bertram Caruthers Elementary School, and Dr. Anna Stubblefield is superintendent of Kansas City USD 500.

The school serves 335 kindergarten through fifth-grade students and 67 pre-K students, Struzzo said. There are 52 teachers and staff members.

Caruthers has worked tirelessly to partner with families in order to create a welcoming family atmosphere, Struzzo said.

“This honor validates the hard work and partnership between school and home,” she said. “Being selected as an ESEA Distinguished School is a true testament to the commitment and hard work that the Caruthers staff displays every day. Teachers and staff have worked relentlessly toward each student’s individual growth. Through teamwork, and as a work family, student needs are put first at Caruthers.”

The school has been working with the National Center for Urban School Transformation for the past four years, Struzzo said. Through this partnership, Caruthers has been focusing on mastery, understanding and promoting successful practice.

“We are all proud of the achievement,” Stubblefield said. “The Distinguished School honor reflects the collective efforts of our teachers, administrators and school support staff who help cultivate a positive and supportive learning environment that encourages academic excellence for all students. The national honor is the result of our students’ hard work and the guidance and encouragement from our parents. These are the outcomes we strive for on all of our school campuses.”

Posted: Dec 7, 2021,
Categories: KSDE,
Comments: 0,
Author: Ann Bush

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