Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar announced this week that the national education prize for 2012 will be awarded to the municipalities of Ariel, Ashdod, Yokneam, Ma’aleh Adumim, Safed and Kiryat Bialik for their achievements in the field.

“This award is an expression of respect and appreciation for local authorities who have stood out in their investment in education and in the importance they accord to fostering the local education system,” Sa’ar said in a statement.

The winning municipalities will receive a cash prize of NIS 100,000 to be invested into one educational project in the city.

The award will be given out during an official ceremony on April 30.

Ashdod Mayor Yehiel Lasri expressed his appreciation for the city’s education professionals and praised them for their “dedicated work in promoting the children of Ashdod.”

Lasri added that tools measuring academic achievement have already shown Ashdod’s excellence in education, but he promised to continue improving in the field.

Currently, Ashdod has approximately 55,000 students, 3,500 educators and 500 education institutions.

The city’s education budget amounts to NIS 418 million and constitutes its largest municipal budget.

Seventeen cities across the country were nominated for the award. The prize committee toured all the municipalities and met with their respective education professionals before making the decision.

The committee explained that the six winning communities displayed unique activities, effectiveness in their absorption of immigrant children, student empowerment in schools, educational leadership, good teaching and learning environments, encouragement of entrepreneurship and innovation and the ability to foster excellence while addressing diversity among students.

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