For Tricia Simonsen, the principal at Colleen Bevis Elementary School, it took a lot of hard work and a joint effort from teachers, parents and students to climb to the top of the state school rankings. Now, she wants to keep it.

While many would be satisfied with the ranking, Simonsen is spending her summer months earnestly constructing a blueprint for the upcoming school year that will incorporate everyone, from the longest tenured teacher to the smallest student.

This past June, the state of Florida released its school grades, a system which helps to illustrate a school’s performance by using letter grades ranging from “A” to “F.” The system takes into account, among other things, the percentage of students meeting state-set standards for reading, math and writing.

Bevis, which received an “A” ranking, didn’t just meet the expectations— it owned them, earning the highest amount of total points on the FCAT for all elementary schools in Florida.

“Lots of planning is involved to maintain excellence,” she said. According to Simonsen, who has been working at Bevis since 2001, serving as an assistant principal and head principal, the key lies in the school’s insistence on personal attention and a close inspection of the story behind the numbers.

“Our main concern is to maximize every student’s potential,” she said. “If a kid is at a Level 3, we want to try and get them to a Level 4 or Level 5. If a certain grade level is scoring off the charts in overall math but is struggling with a specific concept, we want to address that.”

Last year, the school was recognized on the national stage, as it was awarded a Blue Ribbon Award from the U.S. Department of Education for its academic excellence, something, Simonsen believes, is a testament to the hard work provided by the students, parents and teachers.

Jo Ann Jones, who was last year’s Teacher of the Year at Bevis, says she is “completely sold” on the school, especially the quality of students. “I can’t say enough about our kids; they always rise to our level of expectations,” said Jones, who has been at Bevis since 2002. “I absolutely love what I do.”

Bevis is located at 5720 Osprey Ridge Dr. in Lithia. For more information, call 740-0040.

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