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(From left) Julie Rhodes, school librarian; Earon Sheats, principal of Hartselle Intermediate; and Debra Harvel Kreps, assistant principal at Hartselle Intermediate, pose after the school received recognition as a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence Lighthouse recipient in December. 

Hartselle Intermediate earns Blue Ribbon School of Excellence 

Officials with Hartselle City Schools and Hartselle Intermediate School receive the Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence Lighthouse award in December. 


By Calvin Cooley 



Seven years of dedication and hard work came to fruition for the faculty and staff of Hartselle Intermediate School in December, as the school received recognition as a Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence Lighthouse award winner at the organization’s annual conference in Orlando, Florida. 

School officials were notified of the award in July. Faculty and staff celebrated the honor in the school library Friday. 

Blue Ribbon is a very detailed application process,” Hartselle Intermediate principal Earon Sheats said. “During they process they come in and evaluate everything about the school. They talk with students, teachers, parents and members of the community, and they do classroom observations. It’s a very thorough evaluation of what is going on inside the school.” 

According to its website, the Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence Program is “a comprehensive school self-assessment experience utilizing the Blueprint for Excellence with guidance and support from Blue Ribbon Recognized School Educators.” In total, 37 schools received Lighthouse recognition at the conference, with 31 new schools joining six renewal schools in receiving the honor. 

Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence  


Within Morgan County, Priceville Elementary, Danville-Neel Elementary and Frances Nungester and Walter Jackson elementary schools in Decatur also received recognition. 

Hartselle Intermediate is in its seventh year of operation and houses fifth and sixth graders in the Hartselle City Schools system. 

“We’ve really tried to focus on building character over those seven years,” assistant principal Debra Harvel Kreps said. “That’s the biggest change from then to now. We’ve really tried to build a culture within the school, and that big character focus has brought us together. It’s given teachers, students and parents a common purpose.” 

The in-depth evaluation process features nine performance categories, ranging from student focus and support, to technology integration, to school, family and community partnerships. 

“The process causes you to be vulnerable, to really reflect on the work we are doing on a daily basis,” Sheats said.  

Librarian Julie Rhodes agreed. “First off, it was a total team effort,” Rhodes said. “I think the process helped us focus on the things we do well and the things we need to work on going forward. It was a good learning experience for us.” 

Schools receiving the distinction are recognized for five years. That window gives Sheats, Harvel Kreps and the staff at the school a window of time to work toward some of their long-term goals. 

I would like to see more strides in student leadership,” Harvel Kreps said. “We have good student leaders now, but I would like to see that grow. I would like to see students take ownership over student initiative goals.” 

Sheats said she would like to see continued growth in community relations. 

“Academics are obviously a driving factor, but I’d also like to see continued increases in community involvement,” she said. “Parent involvement is key, and I want to keep working on that. I want there to be a community voice.”