Webb Elementary School designated School of Excellence

Students at Webb Elementary School celebrate with handmade Alabama flags during a ceremony designating the school as one of 21 "Schools of Excellence" in Alabama from a pool of 200 Bicentennial schools.

Hundreds of Webb Elementary students proudly and vigorously swung homemade paper Alabama state flags in the air in the auditorium Thursday.

Chosen as one of 21 Alabama Bicentennial Schools of Excellence, Webb’s town and school were celebrating with the students and teacher that earned it the prestigious status that it will carry for the next 100 years.

Their accomplishment was set in stone with a little sculpture commemorating the honor. But Karen Mann, a gifted specialist at Webb who led the project for Houston County Schools, said that the designation will be etched in the minds of her students.

“It’s lasting because this is such a small area; we’re a small community. These kids don’t get noticed very often, so this is a great way to let them know that there’s a bigger world out there,” she said.

The town had only 1,423 residents in 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and had only grown by 116 people since 2000.

Students sang many songs of Alabama pride during the Thursday ceremony, even a revision of the classic “We are the champions.” Instead they sang “We are the champions … of Alabama,” honoring the achievement that earned them a $5,000 grant for the school to continue its community service project.

Mann announced that the money will allow every student to continue field trips to Columbia and buy a giant interactive floor map of Alabama.

“An interactive Alabama room will become a reality this year for all teachers and students to utilize,” she said to the audience. “Exciting things are ahead for Webb Elementary.”

As Houston County School’s District Representative, Mann played a key role in getting Webb Elementary selected as one of 200 Bicentennial Schools across the state out of 2,000 schools given the opportunity to apply in November in 2018.

The district struck a partnership with the Columbia Historical Society to provide educational field trips for students in each grade level to their neighboring town.

Their project called “Rollin’ on the River” was named for Columbia’s natural border on the east side of the town – the Chattahoochee River. Beginning in November of last year, students learned about the rich history of the area while logging their observations in a journal.

While the experience was meant to be fun, Mann believed it would help increase the love and respect students have for their small-town roots and encourage them to want to give back.

The students were proud of what they learned — so much so that their hundreds of letters and pictures to Gov. Kay Ivey’s office successfully coaxed her to visit Webb for part of its “All Things Alabama” program, showcasing their many discoveries.

The event made an impact on Ivey, who later honored Webb with the “School of Excellence” title in August of 2019.

At Thursday’s event, state Sen. Donnie Chesteen read an official proclamation from the governor’s office for Webb’s designation that stated that Webb displayed “extraordinary commitment to community service.”

The students will get the opportunity to travel to Montgomery on Dec. 14 to officially commemorate Alabama’s 200th anniversary of statehood.

Montana Street Magnet School in Dothan and Headland Middle School also won “Schools of Excellence” designations and $5,000 grants. Montana Magnet has since closed so the money will follow the project leader and principal to Girard Primary School.

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