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UPDATE: 4 Santa Clarita Elementary Schools Earn Distinguished School Award

Four Santa Clarita Elementary Schools Earn Distinguished School Award

Four Santa Clarita elementary schools from three different districts were recognized as California Distinguished Schools by the state of California on Wednesday.

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Meadows, Valencia Valley, Pinetree and Charles Helmers Elementary Schools from Newhall, Sulphur Springs Union and Saugus Union School Districts were recognized with the award by Tom Torlakson, the state superintendent of public instruction, according to a California Department of Education news release.

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

This is the fifth time Helmers has been recognized as a distinguished school, the fourth time for both Meadows and Valencia Valley and the third time for Pinetree, and all four schools received “high performance” ratings from the state on the Academic Performance Index scale for the last school year, school officials said.

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To earn the distinguished school recognition, schools must show not only overall significant progress but also progress for every instructional subgroup, such as English Language Learners and minority students, Newhall District officials said.

“I am very proud of the learning demonstrated by our students,” said Meadows Principal Chad Rose. “This high level of achievement is a direct result of the investments made by teachers, the efforts made by students and the support provided by parents.”

Schools were identified for eligibility on the basis of their API rating, as well as their Adequate Yearly Progress results, the federal accountability model. Applicants were also identified by their success in narrowing the achievement gap between higher-performing and lower-performing students, according to the news release.

“It felt really good to have the teachers and support staff acknowledged, and that their hard work is paying off,” said Pinetree Principal Jane D’Anna. “I feel it’s important that the PTA be acknowledged for the role that they have played… At Pinetree, we have a ‘you can do it’ attitude, and we truly believe that if you set goals and work hard, you can achieve success.”

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The California Department of Education followed a strict selection process with the help of many educators from across the state, evaluating two “signature practices” from each school that have led to an increase in student achievement and a narrowing of the achievement gap, as well as conducting thorough site visits to validate the practices, school officials said.

“I could not be more pleased with the outstanding teamwork our staff, parents and children bring to the educational process every day,” said Valencia Valley Principal Ken Hintz. “This level of commitment and hard work is not often found. At Valencia Valley, we are more than a school. We are a family.”

Schools earning the distinguished school title share their practices with other schools and serve as mentors to other educators who want to replicate their work.

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“I’m very proud of our school and I think this is a well-deserved honor for Helmers,” said Helmers Principal Diane Miscione. “We have an exceptional staff here, and hard-working families, teachers and students. I think it’s the collaboration piece that makes us so strong– not only the collaboration between the teachers and the students, but our community and families as well… It’s an inviting place and the kids appear to really want to come to school. They’re excited to come to Helmers.”

All the 2014 California Distinguished Schools will be honored at the California Schools Recognition Programs regional awards ceremonies in June.

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Four Santa Clarita Elementary Schools Earn Distinguished School Award

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About Melissa Lampert

Melissa became a staff writer at KHTS AM-1220 following her internship in the newsroom. She has been writing news and feature stories for the KHTS website since February 2014. After receiving her bachelor's degree in English from the University of California, Santa Barbara, Melissa moved back to Santa Clarita to begin her professional writing career. She has published feature stories in "The Signal" newspaper and College of the Canyons' "Cougar News" and formerly worked as a freelance animal welfare writer for an online publication. In her spare time, Melissa enjoys volunteering at animal rescues and working on her blog, All Things Animal Rescue LA/SCV. In November 2014, she finished writing her first fiction novel and hopes to publish it someday.