As the Council Traditional School staff was preparing to head to Washington, D.C. to accept the school’s Blue Ribbon award next week, they learned the school’s principal will also be just one of seven principals in the nation honored with the Terrel H. Bell Award.

Being selected as a Blue Ribbon school is the highest honor in the nation for public and private schools. Council Traditional School is just one of 286 schools selected for the award.

Now there are even more accolades coming for its leader.

On Nov. 15 the U.S. Department of Education announced that Council President Hattie Alexander was a recipient of the award. The Department of Education looks at the principals of the Blue Ribbon schools and awards a select handful the Terrel H. Bell Award, which is named for a former U.S. Secretary of Education.

A press release from the Department of Education explained why the principals were selected for the award.

“Principals chosen as Terrel H. Bell Award recipients have transformed their schools. Their vision and collaborative leadership styles have produced outstanding results for all their students regardless of race, language proficiency, or socioeconomic status. These principals have shown that with effective leadership and teaching and firm conviction, all students can learn,” the release reads.

Alexander said she was shocked to learn about the honor, but glad because it shows how hard the teachers of Council Traditional School work.

“I was absolutely surprised yesterday when I got a call from Washington, D.C., saying I had won the award,” Alexander said. “It shines the light on our teachers here at this school that have been working diligently for years.”

Council is one of three elementary magnet schools in Mobile County.

Students in the county are selected randomly to attend the school via a lottery. Alexander said there’s a misconception that the children are selected based on their abilities. But what makes the school special, she said, is that students from varying degrees of backgrounds and abilities come to the school. And the staff works hard to get all of the students to perform at exceptional levels.

Students must maintain at least a C average in all subjects to remain at Council, and it is the goal of the staff to help its students achieve that.

Being the principal of such a school is a pleasure for Alexander.

“My favorite part is getting in the classroom and listening to the instruction and seeing the thrill of these kids and the attentiveness of these children to the instruction,” she said. “These children attend to the teacher like they’re in college. They’re focused. They’re involved.

“Now, when they go to the cafeteria or to the gym, they’re children. But when they’re in class, they’re doing what they know they need to do.”

Five teachers are accompanying Alexander to Washington D.C., where Council will receive its Blue Ribbon on Nov. 18. They are Karen Hackshaw, who has been at Council since it opened 25 years ago; Mary Sheffield who has taught there for 21 years; Deanne Davis; Stacey Claiborne and Joyce Cromer.

On Nov. 19, Alexander will receive her award. She will be accompanied by her two grown children, who both attended Council and now live in the Washington, D.C. area.

This marks the second time a MCPSS principal has won the Terrel H. Bell Award. Spencer-Westlawn Elementary Principal Dianne Reynolds won the award last year.