We are proud of our GEMS Owls

-A A +A
By Pat Faherty

We're proud of our Owls

If they were a sports team there would be a parade, no doubt about it.

When some entity from a small rural county in the Panhandle, ends up fifth in the entire state of Florida in anything positive, it is big news.

And even more so when you consider we are talking about high-achieving children in a small local public school.

We did not expect the county to come a halt when we put out the story that Gadsden Elementary Magnet School, known as GEMS, ranked fifth in the entire state for its third, fourth and fifth grade combined scores in FCAT math. Though some formal recognition would be nice. GEMS was the smallest school in the state's top 10 and the only one from the Panhandle.

Unlike sports, in which schools are matched by enrollment numbers, academic ranking is wide open.

Our school came in behind one for Cocoa Beach and ahead of one from Fort Lauderdale. Schools from Jacksonville and Orlando were also in the top 10. We should point out again, that GEMS was competing against 1,943 schools throughout the state. It must also be noted that GEMS -- appropriately known as the Owls -- moved into fifth place from the previous year ranking of 67, a more than respectable score in itself.

Sure everyone knows that the education landscape has changed and students are coached to maximize their performance on standardized tests and GEMS has attracted many gifted students. But that is hardly unique to Gadsden County.

The reality is that GEMS, housed in a venerable Quincy building is one of the state's top schools, and this is in math, a subject that does not come easy to many of us, but is critical to future careers. It is also not a coincidence that GEMS has been an "A" school for the past six years.

This state ranking is a positive reflection on the entire county in addition to being verification of a job well done by the teachers, school staff, administrators, parents and of course the students involved.

So we think GEMS is a big local story and should be treated as big news -- positive news for our county -- where too often the negative and the sensational over shadow all the great things going on.

So if you happen to run into an 'Owl" tell them how proud you are.