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Two Local Schools Make The Grade

Arroyo Seco, Golden Valley Earn Distinguished School Titles.

Two schools in the William S. Hart Union High School District have been awarded the title of California Distinguished School, according to an announcement released today to State Superintendent of Schools Jack O’Connell.


ImageThis is the second such designation for Arroyo Seco Junior High School and the first for Golden ValleyHigh School, one of the district’s newest schools which had to wait until it was at least three years old to be nominated for the accolade.


The two local schools were among a list of only 171 California middle and high schools selected for the California Distinguished Schools award this year, and among only 33 in Los Angeles County singled out for the distinction.


“This is a testament to the focus and hard work that our teachers and administrative staff have exhibited for a number of years,” commented Superintendent Jaime Castellanos. “This is an honor that is not easily achieved, and it certainly requires the best efforts of our entire school communities. I want to extend my heartiest congratulations to both Golden Valley and Arroyo Seco for achieving a well-deserved accolade.”


In order to receive the designation, schools had to meet both their State Academic Performance Index and Federal Adequate Yearly Progress goals. They were required to submit an application which singled out three areas of focus and showed evidence of the schools’ efforts to achieve those goals. A validation team of educators from across the state visited each school to verify the information presented in the application.


ImageThe validation team at Arroyo Seco was lavish in its praise of the school and its programs. "The school culture has a collaborative environment, from the instructional leadership of the administration to the efforts of the entire school community,” the committee told Principal Rhondi Durand. “This is truly a community school with passionate commitment to student achievement, where students blossom in their academic pursuit and social development. Respect for multicultural and multilingual differences is celebrated. The open door policy of administrators and teachers fosters a strong community feeling."


Golden Valley Principal Jacque Snyder focused on her school’s Family Center, block schedule and standards-based instruction as the three outstanding areas of focus. This was the first year that Golden Valley was eligible to apply for the award, which alternates between elementary and middle/high schools each year. Golden Valley was only one year old during the last award cycle open to high schools.


“We have worked hard to be sure our kids are prepared for whatever they choose to do in the future,” Snyder affirmed. She attributed the award to the hard work and efforts of staff, students and parents at the school.


“Everyone has just come together to make this a priority that the students need to pass tests and be prepared for whatever the future will bring,” she explained.


Arroyo Seco earned the California Distinguished School honor once before, in 1999, and went on to win the National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence award the following year. “We are so excited,” Durand exclaimed. “We are thrilled to be able to continue this tradition. We appreciate all of the support from the community and hard work from the staff.”


Arroyo Seco’s application was prepared by Assistant Principal Cathy Novean, who created a Museum Walk with samples of student work which particularly impressed the validation team. The visitors also were impressed with spontaneous comments from students on campus and from parents who commented on the fact that their students not only survived difficult junior high years, but “blossomed” in the nurturing environment of Arroyo Seco Junior High.


Governing Board President Patricia Hanrion had “no doubt” when the visitations were completed that Arroyo Seco and Golden Valley would be confirmed as California Distinguished Schools. “They are fine schools with amazing administrators who focus on learning and youth,” she commented. “The teachers are totally dedicated. They should be so proud of their schools.”


Arroyo Seco’s application focused on the school’s program of writing across the curriculum, collaboration among teachers and student-led conferences. The school emphasizes the importance of writing in all subjects and hosts “The Writing Project,” Seco’s own monthly expository writing in which all students participate.


Exhibits supporting the school’s student-led conferences included parent nights where students share their academic portfolios and Showcase Portfolio Day, where eighth graders share their work with volunteers from the community.


Golden Valley High School is only the second Hart District high school to receive the CaliforniaDistinguished School award and the youngest school in the district to receive the designation. According to the validation team, it is unheard of for a school to receive the award after only two years. They were impressed with what Golden Valley has accomplished in so short a period of time, according to English teacher Joanna Sarff, who wrote the actual application.


The high school submitted 20 pages of narrative covering nine themes, including assessment, instruction, curriculum, support for academics and affective domain areas. More than 1,000 pieces of evidence supported the application, as well as validation team interviews with staff, students, parents and community members.


Both Arroyo Seco and Golden Valley will be entitled to use the California Distinguished School designation through 2011.

Two Local Schools Make The Grade

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