Pima Butte Elementary School
Pima Butte Elementary, which was the first MUSD school to win a National Blue Ribbon award, received an "A" from the Arizona Department of Education in the state's first post-pandemic evaluation. [U.S. Department of Education photo]

Pima Butte Elementary School was recognized Thursday as a 2020 National Blue Ribbon School, one of just 367 U.S. public and private schools to win the award.

The school was honored for its overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Pima Butte is one of five schools in Arizona to be honored in 2020. It is the first Blue Ribbon honor for a school in the Maricopa Unified School District.


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“We are so proud of the staff and students of Pima Butte Elementary School for achieving this impressive title,” said Tracey Lopeman, MUSD superintendent, in a statement. “Your commitment to provide a welcoming environment and meet rigorous academic standards inspires excellence for all of us.”

The selective Blue Ribbon award recognizes the diligent work of educators, families and communities to create safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content.

Pima Butte is the district’s top-rated school, with an A rating from the state and an A+ designation by the Arizona Educational Foundation. It has an enrollment of about 650.

Randy Lazar was principal at the time of nomination. He resigned in April after seven years leading the Mustangs on West Rancho El Dorado Parkway.

“Everyone is here for the students and whatever direction we go, it’s for students,” he told InMaricopa when he was hired at Pima Butte in 2013. “I got into this field to help students succeed.”

Elizabeth Allison, who took over as principal this year after serving as Teacher on Special Assignment between Pima Butte and Santa Rosa Elementary School, congratulated staff on the national honor.

“This designation is a great honor and a clear testament to all your hard work and dedication to your students,” she said in a news release. “It is an honor and a privilege to be part of such a wonderful organization that always strives for excellence and always puts the interest of its students first.”

The U.S. Education Department recognizes all schools in one of two performance categories, based on all student scores, student subgroup scores and graduation rates:

  • Exemplary High Performing Schools – These are among their state’s highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests.
  • Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools – These are among their state’s highest performing in closing achievement gaps between a school’s student groups and all students.

The 2020 National Blue Ribbon Schools Awards Ceremony will be held virtually Nov. 12 and 13.