CHATHAM, NJ - When SBS Principal Rob Gardella is greeted with congratulations from Chatham residents for the National Blue Ribbon Award recognition earned by Southern Boulevard School, he congratulates them right back.

"This really raises our spirit and raises our pride," Gardella said. "I think the community is really energized about it. People are congratulating me and I'm turning around and congratulating them. It's theirs, too. I've been saying that all along.

"The kids don't perform well on the tests without the teachers, without the parents, without the resources from the district. None of that happens without everybody. It's just nice to be a part of that."

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Chatham's Southern Boulevard Elementary School was informed last week that it had won a National Blue Ribbon Schools award from the U.S. Department of Education for achieving academic excellence.

"Sometimes you land in a good place and you get surrounded by good people and good things happen," Gardella, now in his second year as the SBS principal, said. "That's what this was."

Contacted in January about applying for the award, SBS was notified it had been named a Blue Ribbon School by Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education. The application SBS filled out for the award can be found here.

Southern Boulevard joins previous Chatham Blue Ribbon School winners, Milton Avenue School and Chatham High School. Chatham is one of nine New Jersey schools to gain the honor in 2015.

"We were nominated in January as a high-performing exemplary school," Gardella said. "It means we had sustained a high level of academic performance over a period of time. It's determined by state testing results that they gather.The Department of Education nominates you for a Blue Ribbon Award."

Gardella will travel to Washington, D.C. to receive the award on Nov. 9 and 10. He will be attending along with former SBS Principal Ralph J. Pesapane, now retired, and school nurse Karen Leister.

"We wanted to share that with (Pesapane)," Gardella said. "Quite honestly, other than filling out the application, this is largely his honor. It's a tribute to the staff, it's a tribute to the community and the work Ralph has done. A lot of that test data preceded me."

Rob Gardella, Southern Boulevard School principal, talks about winning the National Blue Ribbon Award

Chatham Superintendent Dr. Michael LaSusa informs the board of education members about Southern Boulevard School's award at Oct. 5 BOE meeting