It's not often students applaud academic achievement by their school. It's rarer still that applause is genuine.

Thursday was one of those rare  occasions, as the students of St. Mary Catholic School of Newton gave themselves, their teachers and their principal a minute-long standing ovation.

The school was announced as a "Banner School" by the Catholic Diocese of Wichita. The diocese operates 39 schools. Four were chosen as banner schools.

"We appreciate the recognition of the hard work that our teachers, students and families put into this school," said principal Phillip Stutey.

The last time St. Mary was feted with the award was 2000.

Thursday, just before an all school spelling bee for Catholic Schools Week, the diocese superintendent of schools, Bob Voboril, made the announcement and presented the banner.

It is an award he said the school can take great pride in.

"The state gives awards, but those are based on almost strictly two tests," Voboril said. "Our schools do well on those too. This is more complete and looks at the whole program. It looks at the quality of teachers, and quality of students."

He said St. Mary's school demographics make becoming a banner school even more impressive.

"The student body is half hispanic and more than half low income," Voboril said. "This is a credit to Phillip (Stutey), the teachers and the pastors here."