10 local schools honored

By From page A1 | May 16, 2014

Ten El Dorado County elementary schools, representing five school districts, received recognition as 2014 California Distinguished Schools. The California Distinguished School Award identifies and honors schools with demonstrating educational excellence for all students and in showing significant gains in narrowing the achievement gap.

Northside School from Black Oak Mine Unified School District; Silva Valley School, Oak Meadow School and William J. Brooks School from Buckeye Union School District; Pinewood Elementary School from the Pollock Pines Union School District; Jackson School, Lake Forest School, Lakeview School, and Rescue School from the Rescue Union School District and the Lake Tahoe Environmental Science Magnet School from the Lake Tahoe Unified School District were all recognized as 2014 California Distinguished Schools.

Statewide, 424 elementary schools were honored as 2014 California Distinguished Schools and were notified by the California Department of Education on April 30.Each honored school will receive a Distinguished School plaque and flag from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson during a June regional award ceremony.

“I applaud these strong, thriving schools that are making such impressive strides in preparing their students for continued success,” said Torlakson in a news release. “This award is well-deserved by these schools communities for their enduring dedication to high standards, hard work and unwavering support.”

The application process was intensive. Schools were required to demonstrate eligibility to certain criteria including accountability to federal and state measures based on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and Academic Performance Index requirements. Applications also required comprehensive descriptions of two successful signature practices used by individual schools to maximize student success. Under the direction of the California Department of Education, teams of educators from across the state screened applications and visited each selected site to confirm full signature practice implementation.

Northside Principal Wendy Westsmith attributed the award to shared leadership, which the school has been practicing for the past two years, and the schoolwide garden.

“When our district restructured our schools a couple of years ago, we saw it as both a challenge and an opportunity. Instead of the principal being the leader, we began a shared leadership with parents, teachers and students and this has led to many innovative ideas and in students being invested in their own learning,” she said.

Brent Malicote, principal of Pinewood Elementary School, said there has been tremendous academic growth for all students at Pinewood and believes the team of teachers and support personnel is a huge part of the school becoming a California Distinguished School.

“Our many intervention and enrichment programs are another positive piece and our  ‘Fill your Bucket’ program has really taken off — not just at school, but out in the community as well, with our parents,” said Malicote.

“Fill your Bucket” is based on the Tom Rath book “How Full is Your Bucket?” an inspirational book about kindness and how to treat others.

David Roth, superintendent of Buckeye Union School District, said it’s not just one thing that placed three of the district’s elementary schools on the Distinguished Schools list.

“It’s all the different efforts and it all starts with excellent teachers and a supportive parent community. We constantly look at how we can improve every program. More use of technology and well-designed, effective interventions are part of that effort. It’s nice to see the state recognize the schools in this way,” he said.

Rescue Union School District Superintendent David Swart attributed the stellar performance of four of the district’s elementary schools being honored as California Distinguished Schools to the hard work and exceptional quality of the teachers and support staff.

“There is so much going on in education now, yet they still make the extra effort to apply for this award to let the community know how excellent our schools are,” he said.

Swart said that both Rescue’s middle schools, Pleasant Grove and Marina Village were recognized as California Distinguished Schools in 2013. “In El Dorado County we live in a blessed place where we have excellent teachers and this award is a symbol of the wonderful quality of education we have here.”

Representatives of the Lake Tahoe Unified School District were unable to be reached for comment.

Wendy Schultz

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