When Brywood Elementary School was honored as a Blue Ribbon School last spring, both students and teachers got an unexpected lesson in Washington budget cutting.
Right after Brywood received the Department of Education award, federal funding for the program was slashed.
As a result, the Washington awards ceremony was canceled and Brywood was left without the honorary plaque that goes with the award.
Then, in December, funding for the Blue Ribbon program was restored.
So last week, Brywood Principal Stuart Cunningham went to the nation's capital to accept the honor, meeting congressional leaders at the Library of Congress and attending an address by President Clinton at the White House.
"It was very nice," Cunningham said of finally receiving the honor on behalf of his staff and students. "It feels good to have someone recognize the job we do."
Brywood was one of 428 schools across the country to be named Blue Ribbon schools last year.
The program is designed to highlight both public and private schools that have found success using innovative curricula.
Brywood was the only school in Orange County to receive the honor, Cunningham said.
After surviving county and statewide competition, Brywood was one of 500 national finalists.
Judges selected the winners based on 35-page questionnaires that officials from each school had to complete.
The questionnaires covered all aspects of campus life, from parental involvement to test scores.
The judges wanted to know how gifted students were taught as well as what the school was doing for "at risk" children, Cunningham said.
The school boasts the state's first networked lab of Apple computers. Over the last few years, parents have raised $100,000 for various school activities and equipment.
And students regularly receive high scores on reading, math and language-arts tests, Cunningham said.
"It's an affirmation of the work the staff has done," he said. "Everyone works very hard."