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Local schools named California Distinguished Schools

Posted: April 30, 2014 5:47 p.m.
Updated: April 30, 2014 5:47 p.m.

Four local schools in three Santa Clarita Valley school districts are among those that have been named as California Distinguished Schools, state officials announced Wednesday.

Meadows Elementary School and Valencia Valley Elementary School in the Newhall School District, Charles Helmers Elementary School in the Saugus Union School District and Pinetree Community School in the Sulphur Springs School District were the local schools recognized, according to the California Department of Education.

This is the fourth time that both Meadows and Valencia Valley have been recognized with this award, according to a news release from the Newhall School District.

“Our teachers, principals and students work hard to achieve and we welcome this recognition,” said Brian Walters, president of the district’s governing board, in a news release. “The outstanding staffs at Meadows and Valencia Valley have approached their schools’ instructional programs with creativity and commitment and their efforts have been effective for their students.”

Diane Miscione, principal at Charles Helmers Elementary School, said she was “beyond proud” for the school’s recognition as a California Distinguished School.

This marks the fifth time the school has received the distinction, Miscione said.

“I think it’s a combination of the children, the staff and the community,” she said when asked what makes her school special. “The community and the parents, everybody comes together here at this site and makes it a warm and nurturing environment.”

Miscione said the school focuses not only on scholastics but on providing access to creative arts and fitness.
“This is an exceptional school and I think, with or without the award, we are certainly distinguished,” she said.
Jane D’Anna, principal at Pinetree Community School, said Wednesday that this is the third time the school has been named a California Distinguished School.

“I’m immensely proud of my teachers and support staff for this accomplishment,” she said.

D’Anna said the accomplishment was a team effort, involving not only those that work at and attend the school but the PTA as well.

She also said collaboration between students and teachers, as well as the school’s professional development environment, have helped ensure student success.

“All of those factors help us know the students we’re serving and find the best ways to meet their needs,” she said. “And we do whatever it takes to make sure our students are successful.”

Approximately 424 public elementary schools were named as California Distinguished Schools this year, according to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

“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 issued Wednesday. “This award is well-deserved by these school communities for their enduring dedication to high standards, hard work and unwavering support.”

Elementary and secondary schools are recognized in alternate years, according to state officials.

“The 2014 California Distinguished Schools Program focuses on California’s students’ right to an equitable and rigorous education, and recognizes those schools that have made progress in narrowing the academic achievement gap,” according to the Department of Education.

Schools must apply for designation as a distinguished school in a process that includes an application describing two of the school’s “signature practices.” The process also includes a site review where officials visit the campus to see how those practices are carried out.
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