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Corsica-Stickney Elementary honored at national conference

STICKNEY -- An award given to the Corsica-Stickney Elementary School last month has affirmed the decision to consolidate the districts, according to Principal Ferra Kemp.

STICKNEY - An award given to the Corsica-Stickney Elementary School last month has affirmed the decision to consolidate the districts, according to Principal Ferra Kemp.

Corsica-Stickney Elementary School was one of two schools in the state to be honored as South Dakota Title I Distinguished Schools at the 2016 Title I national conference in Houston, Texas, in late January.

More rewarding than the recognition, Kemp said, is the honor further solidified the consolidation of Corsica and Stickney school districts. The 2015-2016 school year is Corsica-Stickney's first year as a consolidated school district.

"When you go into a consolidation, even though you see it as a good thing, there's always that reservation that you're not the same," Kemp said. "This reassures people that we put two good schools together, and we're off to a good start."

Previously, Corsica Elementary and Stickney Elementary schools were separately honored as Distinguished Schools.

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Kemp and Title I Director Kristine Gillette on Jan. 28-31 traveled to the conference, where they participated in several workshops, banquets and listened to keynote speakers. Kemp said school officials were notified Corsica-Stickney was named a Distinguished School in the fall.

Title I schools, as defined by the U.S. Department of Education, are schools with "high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families" that receive federal funds to help ensure all children meet challenging state academic standards.

Kemp said this can involve small group and individual work, and more one-on-one time with educators, along with holding Title I family nights twice-yearly, to have families come into the school with their students. The nights typically have a theme, and members from the community who don't have students enrolled are also invited.

"Title I basically targets students who don't need special education services or anything like that," Kemp said. "So, they're targeted in their classrooms to help them succeed more."

Title I Distinguished Schools, Kemp said, are selected based upon "exceptional student performance for two or more years." She said performance is heavily based upon test scores.

Schools don't apply to be named a Distinguished School. Rather, state-level Title I departments monitor each school that receives funds for Title I programs, and schools that perform the best, or close achievement gaps between student groups, are honored, Kemp said.

The other South Dakota school recognized was Faulkton Elementary School.

At the conference, Kemp said, Corsica-Stickney was recognized at a ceremony and treated to a special dinner.

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During one workshop session, representatives from each Distinguished School met and gave a brief speech about what was special about their school.

Corsica-Stickney shined during the session as one of few small-town schools.

During her speech, Kemp said she talked about the school's size and high concentration of families with agricultural backgrounds. She said what really stood out to the other representatives, though, was how a rural South Dakota school handles cold weather.

"I said that we still do go to school when it's blowing 50 miles per hour and it's 30-below-zero. They were shocked," Kemp said, noting the metropolitan areas other schools hailed from.

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