Ten local elementary schools last week were named California Distinguished Schools, an honor conferred by the state’s Department of Education recognizing schools achieving greatest gains in academic achievement, innovation and student well-being.
Four schools in both Redondo Beach and Manhattan Beach school districts were named, and both of Hermosa Beach’s elementary schools were honored. In total, 424 of the state’s 5,768 elementary schools were recognized.
The Distinguished Schools program focuses on students’ right to an equitable and rigorous education and identifies those schools that have demonstrated educational excellence for all students and progress in narrowing the achievement gap.
In both the Redondo Beach Unified School District and the Manhattan Beach Unified School District, this year marked the first time four schools were honored.
“Any South Bay parent knows that all of Redondo Beach schools are, indeed, distinguished,” RBUSD Superintendent Steven Keller said. “This year, the Sstate has chosen to provide a little more spotlight on four of them – Alta Vista, Beryl, Jefferson, and Madison. The Board of Education and I could not be more elated. … Congratulations to the staff members, the kids, and the parents at each of these school sites.”
In Manhattan Beach, Grand View, Robinson, Pennekamp and Pacific elementary schools made the list.
MBUSD Superintendent Mike Matthews said that the district’s other elementary school, Meadows, may also have qualified but didn’t submit an application. He also noted that academic achievement is on the increase in the district.
“The nomination is based on test scores that are not only very high, but they are improving as well<” Matthews said. “The actual award comes from schools identifying their signature practices and describing them in the application, then a team of educators reviews the applications and visits the schools. Our distinguished school practices ranged from literacy programsto instructional technologyto building stronger school communities….Getting four schools in one year is an incredible accomplishment.”
Grandview Principal Rhonda Steinberg credited the school’s recently implemented reading intervention program, which pairs every student reading below grade level with a reading specialist four times a week for 45 minutes, as well as the new district-wide writer’s workshop program. This is the third time Grand View was named a California Distinguished School, she said. It received the recognition in 1994, then and 2010.
“Our goal is to never be complacent, to always be better,” Steinberg said. “Never rest on your laurels.”
Hermosa Beach City School District Superintendent Patricia Escalante said that the awards for Hermosa View and Hermosa Valley represented an achievement for the entire community.
“Even in hard times, we put the children first,” Escalante said. “Hermosa Beach schools are community schools. There is a need for us to have parents, teachers, business partners and community members involved. We work together, and that’s what really sets our school district apart.”
Madison School in Redondo was given secondary recognition for exemplary health, nutrition, and physical fitness education. This is the first year such recognition was given.
Several Beach Cities Health District nutrition and health programs at local schools were identified as factors in becoming Distinguished Schools, including Hermosa View’s Mind Up program, a social/emotional learning curriculum program initiated by BCHD’s Blue Zones Project. In their applications, Redondo’s Beryl and Jefferson schools highlighted their Live Well Kids programs, which fight childhood obesity.
“We at the BCHD are excited for all of the schools for their academic achievements and exemplary commitment to overall student well being,” said Lisa Santora, BCHD’s chief medical officer.
Alyssa Morin, Esther Kang, and Ryah Cooley contributed to this report.