Bremerton Schools bag prestigious Magna Award

When the American School Board Journal announced its grand-prize winners of the 2007 Magna Awards last week, The Bremerton School District was honored for its work in early education.

The district’s “Starting Early for Success” program targeting preschool children and kindergartners earned one of only three prizes awarded nationwide. Just six years into an ever evolving program, now 52 percent of Bremerton kindergartners know their letters before starting school, and the kindergarten curriculum has had to be advanced.

Previously, only 4 percent of incoming students knew their letters.

“Across the country there’s a recognition that you front-load the system,” said Bremerton Schools Superintendent Bette Hyde. “You want kids growing up from day one saying, ‘I can learn!’”

Hyde gave tremendous credit for the program to Special Programs Director Linda Sullivan-Dudzic, who began the concept when she worked as a speech pathologist for the district. “It began with Linda building trust in the community,” Hyde said. “Some wonderful partnership building was done.”

Hyde and Sullivan-Dudzic will receive the award, and $3,500 in scholarship funds at a conference this weekend in San Francisco. They will also give presentations on the program.

“The significance is a national recognition of the good work being done in Bremerton,” Hyde said. “I can’t tell you how many people come to see what we’re doing. We all have a professional responsibility to leave our profession a little better, and this is a program that can easily be replicated anywhere.”

Bremerton joins the Newark Central School Board in Newark, New York, and the Educational Service Center of Franklin County in Columbus, Ohio as a grand-prize winner.

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