Five Sussex County schools have been named winners of Delaware’s 2013 Reward and Recognition School Awards, which carry with them $50,000 cash prizes.

Five Sussex County schools have been named winners of Delaware’s 2013 Reward and Recognition School Awards, which carry with them $50,000 cash prizes.

Lt. Gov. Matt Denn and Department of Education Secretary Mark Murphy announced the winners Tuesday at three locations throughout the state, with their last stop being Georgetown Middle School. A total of 17 Delaware schools received $50,000 prizes.

“Overall these are schools that have been doing just amazing things with their kids,” Denn said, adding the awards are based on Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System testing.

The big winner this year is the Sussex Academy of Arts & Sciences in Georgetown, which holds the state’s highest percentage of students meeting proficiency in state testing. Sussex Academy was named a “Reward School,” as was Elbert-Palmer Elementary in the Christiana School District.

Sussex Academy’s DCAS results showed proficiency scores at greater than 95 percent in almost every grade and every test subject.

“We are very humbled and pleased,” said Patricia Oliphant, director of Sussex Academy. “I certainly attribute all of our success to the faculty, staff, the students and their parents. They are the captains of the ship that just moves us forward.”

Oliphant said when she was notified of the win, she was asked what Sussex Academy does differently from other schools to achieve such high scores. She asked her students, who said they’re always pushed to succeed and receive real-life learning experiences. She asked her teachers, who said the success is student-driven and complemented by across-the-board high standards.

“As principal, I’ll say I believe we have committed professionals that use best practice, students who are engaged in authentic learning and a school culture that values respect and responsibility,” Oliphant said.

Four Indian River School District institutions – East Millsboro Elementary, Georgetown Elementary, Georgetown Middle and Long Neck Elementary – were named “Recognition Schools,” chosen for exceptional performance and/or closing the achievement gap. These schools will also receive $50,000 each.

Three more IRSD schools – John M. Clayton Elementary, Lord Baltimore Elementary and Phillip C. Showell Elementary – were named “Schools of Continued Excellence,” meaning they received state awards in 2012 and continue to achieve excellent testing scores but are not eligible for another cash prize until next year.

IRSD Superintendent Susan Bunting said to have four schools receive Recognition School Awards is a tremendous honor, which is further reinforced by three additional schools being named “Schools of Continued Excellence.”

“Thus we are thrilled to have nearly half the schools in our district recognized for their academic excellence,” Bunting said. “I would like to congratulate the students and staffs of each school for exhibiting the outstanding dedication and achievement that has enabled Indian River to be one of the finest public school systems in Delaware.”

The schools that received $50,000 prizes, which are funded by the state’s Race to the Top grant, have complete discretion over how the money is spent. The state stipulates that each school must appoint a committee comprised of administration members, teachers, staff and parents to determine how the money will be used.