“Yay, Warrenville,” Principal Brad Weston happily exclaimed when he learned of the surprise announcement that his elementary school won a state-level award for its progress on Palmetto Assessment of State Standards exams taken last spring.

Janice Kitchings, an Aiken County School District academic officer, congratulated the administration and faculty Thursday. The State Department of Education is providing a $5,000 grant, she said.

Earlier this year, the State Department recognized federally designated Title I schools for their academic progress. The State Department now has identified Warrenville and two other elementary schools in the state for demonstrating the most progress in their category.

These schools and three others with high-performance honors will attend the S.C. Associate of Title I Administrators Fall Conference to share best practices.

Jeannie Glover, the School District's Title I director, said Warrenville is now eligible among the three schools to be named an S.C. Title I Distinguished School. The winner will receive another $10,000 grant and will be eligible to attend a national conference in February.

“This is a dream that seems like it's never-ending,” Weston sad. “It's such a huge accomplishment, and it's hard to come back and maintain that level. But we'll be digging into our data to keep Warrenville at this status.”

The faculty will continue to focus on things that worked for them last year. The teachers and administrators will try to revise things they have identified as areas of improvements, Weston said.

Warrenville was participating in picture day, and to her delight, PTO President Shannon Blackburn was attending that event when Kitchings, Glover and other district personnel arrived with the good news. The PTO officer joined the organization in 2001 and her youngest child, Matthew, is in third grade.

“They'll have me here for a few more years,” Blackburn said. “This is a great school with great teachers. They deserve this.”

Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter.