Inquiring minds want to know, just what is it about Westridge Elementary that made the judges for Redbook's annual survey list it as one of the 90 "Overall Excellent" schools in America?

Is it the fact that instead of fights on the playground, disagreements are solved by youngsters in red shirts known as "conflict monitors?"Is it that Westridge has a successful sister-school program with students in Mexico? Is it the addition of college-age "cohorts" in a demonstration project from Brigham Young University, which will ultimately help align methods and practical teaching experience?

Or maybe it's because the school was the first in the state to go year-round with a curriculum that offers as much to the challenged student as to the gifted?

The answer might lie in the school mission statement that says children are treasured and the chief goal is "to foster a love of learning in an innovative, cooperative climate which empowers all students to become competent, productive, caring and responsible citizens."

Arienne Davis, a fourth-grader, thinks it's because the students care for each other and "we set goals as a school" each year.

Another fourth-grader, Michael Hunter, believes it's because Westridge has good "lunch, recess and off-track time."

Third-grader Billy Johnson and first-grader Anna DeMarco agree about the recess, but when asked what's best about Westridge, Anna said, "My teacher told us not to say that!"

Matt Checketts, a sixth-grader, said his teachers are "really good, especially Mrs. Gibbs for math."

That's even though she threatens "a smooch" for a tardy or misbehaving students.

"I've been kissed by her before," said Kevin Anderson, who's in the fifth grade. "Everybody's good after that!"

The kids like the variety of their school days at Westridge, from the music festival to the talent showcase and magic assemblies and Great Brain projects. A favorite is the Spanish festival when everyone must use their Spanish language skills or be docked a peso or two by the "Spanish Police."

Students say they're happy with the playground size, the "fun" equipment, the computers and theyear-round schedule.

"We don't stay in the same place. We get to move around a lot," said Kevin. "I like that."

Third-grader Gwen Longshore likes the math. Chantelle Ledingham likes the reading. She's in the second grade. Jonathan Pike, also in the second grade, says the teachers help kids understand whatever the subject is.

"Then when they don't know what it is, then the kids help each other," said Joni Mann, a sixth-grader, who said she'd like to see more choir. She really enjoys the annual music festival that's coming up. And she wishes there were more in the way of physical education.

First-grader Cameron Adamson would like a bigger playground. Jonathan would put a few more trees on the playground for more shade. Sydney Kramer, who's in the fifth grade, says Westridge already has other schools beat for good play equipment and spacious grounds.

Principal John Bone said the Redbook honor really is a credit to the teachers and their 900 students and something for which they can justifiably be proud.

At the same time, he says every educator can point with pride at the good things happening across the nation in schools. "This represents many, many good schools," he said.

Redbook selects 300 finalists a year nominated by various organizations and school support agencies. Of those finalists, a panel of judges chooses the 142 best schools in an assortment of categories including "Overall Excellence' where Westridge was listed based on a written application.

"It's a good discipline just to apply,' said Bone. "We have to list specifically where we feel we're doing well. It helps us identify our strengths and sometimes our weak-nesses."

Winners spent an average of $4,769 per pupil compared to the national average of $5,734 per student. In the Provo School District, $4,016 is spent per child.