NORTH ROYALTON – Valley Vista Elementary students, teachers and parents have known for a long time the school would go down in history as one of the best, and now the whole state will know.

Principal Jeff Hill and Superintendent Greg Gurka learned April 14 the school was one of only seven statewide inducted into the Ohio Association of Elementary School Administrators’ Hall of Fame this year.

The two kept it hush-hush, surprising students and staff with a special assembly April 15 to share and celebrate the good news.

For weeks there has been a build up of excitement and anxiousness throughout the building.

“Even the kids were anxious. I’d be walking down the hallway and have a student stop me and ask, ‘Mr. Hill, did you hear anything yet?’” Hill smiled. “Two or three every couple of days would ask me that.”

Hill’s first thoughts turned to the students and staff when he received the good news.

“When I found out, honestly, the first thing that came to mind was how proud I am of the students, the staff, our parents. I thought it was so well deserved for everything they do on a daily basis,” Hill said. “I told my staff throughout the process and even today that there was nothing I would change or nothing I felt we should have done to make it any more for us to be where we are now as far as academics, student initiatives, the things we are doing in the community. This school just goes above and beyond on everything it does.”

To see the look on the students’ and teachers’ faces when they heard the news was priceless, Hill added.

“It was worth every ounce of effort,” he said.

Ward 3 Councilman and PTA dad Dan Langshaw’s stepson Henry Schuld is a third-grader there. He said that was the first thing out of Henry’s mouth when he returned home from school Friday.

“The first thing he told me is that he is happy to go to a school that is in the hall of fame,” Langshaw chuckled. “His happiness and love for his school is just beautiful. And, I have seen firsthand the wonderful things that are going on at Valley Vista. Principal Hill, teachers, staff, students and parents all do such an amazing job to make Valley Vista such a great school here in North Royalton. This award is for them all.”

Presented annually since 1984, this award honors educational programs that go above and beyond meeting the needs of students in elementary and middle schools across the state. Winning schools receive a plaque, a $1,000 award and special recognition at the OAESA awards luncheon in Columbus in June.

The Hall of Fame School award recognizes schools that engage faculty, students and the community to provide a quality school experience. The school staff submitted an extensive application documenting the effectiveness of their educational program in several areas.

Schools are nominated for this distinction, complete an extensive and rigorous application process and then receive an on-site visit from OAESA members if they become finalists. Valley Vista’s site visit was March 15.

Hall of Fame schools are chosen by two committees of OAESA members. One read and scored the applications and the other conducted on-site evaluations of qualifying schools. Committee members wrote that, “Valley Vista Elementary is a welcoming school, wherein student engagement and leadership, and community involvement and support are emphasized throughout all facets of the school community. Valley Vista’s school-wide positive behavior supports initiative encourages students to be Respectful, Responsible, and Ready to Learn, and promotes a climate and culture of school spirit and loyalty which is clearly evident amongst all members of the school community.”

Royal View was one of only 10 OAESA Hall of Fame Schools named in 2015.

Gurka said he couldn’t be prouder of the school family.

“It truly is the collaboration between the administration, staff, students, parents and the entire community that makes Valley Vista great and all of our schools great.”

The school will be formally recognized by the OAESA at an upcoming school board meeting.

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