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Eight local schools honored

Posted: December 1, 2008 8:52 p.m.
Updated: December 2, 2008 4:55 a.m.

Eight Santa Clarita Valley elementary schools received Honor Roll distinction from the California Business for Education Excellence and Just for the Kids California.

The designation was given to six of Newall School District's 10 elementary schools, two Saugus Union School District schools and one from Sulphur Springs School District.

Honor Roll schools are honored for consistently high student academic achievement and for significantly improving the performance of underachieving students.

Awarded were McGrath, Oak Hills, Pico Canyon, Stevenson Ranch, Valencia Valley and Wiley Canyon elementary schools in the Newhall School District; Charles Helmers and North Park elementary schools in Saugus Union School District; and Sulphur Springs Elementary School.

"We are thrilled we've been selected as an Honor Roll school and recognized by California's business community," said Newhall School District Superintendent Marc Winger.

"Our teachers and administrators are committed and have worked tirelessly to ensure the focus in on student academic achievement and reaching grade-level proficiency," he said.

Winger explained the criteria for receiving the award were based on academic testing and were split between two socio-economic groups depending on how many free or reduced lunches were received by the student body.

"We hold our students, no matter what their background, to the same high standards because we believe they can all reach grade-level proficiency," Winger said.

Lower socio-economic schools face a variety of learning difficulties, said McGrath Elementary School Principal Larry Heath.

"Children who come from poverty situations have a lot of barriers," Heath said. "In order to overcome those barriers the school has to create instruction strategies and opportunities for re-teaching."

Wiley Canyon Elementary School Principal Luis Gamarra said his school is blessed with high parental involvement, supportive PTA staff, motivated teachers and excellent students.

But in addition, Wiley Canyon has a reading lab designed to intervene when students are troubled, he said.

"Students go to the reading lab four times weekly for an hour at a time," Gamarra said. "The reading lab is for kids that are not proficient. The kids meet with reading lab teachers and are grouped according to ability.

"We are working individually with those kids to target their specific needs," Gamarra said.

Greg Jones, California Business for Education Excellence chairman, said high-achieving schools deserve recognition.

"Schools on the Honor Roll dispel the myth that certain students can't reach grade-level proficiency and that schools with a challenging student population won't be able to succeed," Jones said.

"These schools are overcoming challenges every day. The business community continues to be impressed by the growing numbers of California public schools that make the Honor Roll each year and that are getting the job done for our students."


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