POMONA — It’s a first for West Franklin High School, but hopefully not the last, Rick Smith said.

Smith received word Tuesday morning that West Franklin High School had been recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School, he said. West Franklin was one of five high schools in Kansas to receive the award.

“About a year ago we were notified by the Kansas State Department of Education that we’d been nominated for the National Blue Ribbon award,” Smith, principal at West Franklin High School, said. “We then went through an application process that defines some academic achievements, demographic information, socioeconomic information — it’s quite a lengthy process.”

The Blue Ribbon award is given to 236 public and 50 private schools, according to a press release from the U.S. Secretary of Education’s office. The National Blue Ribbon Schools award honors public and private elementary, middle and high schools where students perform at very high levels or where significant improvements are being made in students’ levels of achievement, the release said.

“There are two criteria a school has to meet,” Smith said. “One is exceptional academic achievement over an extended period of time, and the other is for closing the achievement gap.”

To his knowledge, Smith said, he only knows of one other school in Franklin County to have received the award. Being recognized means a lot, he said.

“It’s an indicator that we’re doing things right at West Franklin High School,” he said.

Thanks should be given to the students and staff, Smith said, for without them, the recognition wouldn’t exist.

“Our reading and math scores have gone from 50 percent of students proficient, to in excess of 90 percent over the last six years,” he said. “So we’ve shown growth in reading and math and maintained that growth for a period of six years.”

Being recognized as a Blue Ribbon school is hopefully laying the foundation for West Franklin, Smith said, and he hopes to make the recognition a tradition.

“We’re trying to establish a tradition of academic excellence with our students as they come through the campus at the middle school and high school,” he said. “It’s a big award — there’s probably no bigger award in education.”