Suzanne Earns Distinguished School Award for the 4th Time

Suzanne Distinguished with Highest State Award

WALNUT, CA--Suzanne Middle School has been selected as a 2011 California Distinguished School. Out of nearly 2600 middle and high schools throughout the state, Suzanne was among the group of 116 schools singled out this year to receive the state’s highest honor.

This is the fourth time since 1990 that Suzanne has received the California Department of Education Award. Suzanne had to demonstrate how it is closing the achievement gap in order to qualify for the nomination.

Overall, Suzanne’s Academic Performance Index increased from 909 in 2010 to 926 in 2011. The state’s target score is 800.

“Being recognized as a California Distinguished School is an honor,” said Principal Les Ojeda. “I am happy for our staff, students, and the community of Walnut. Our staff works very hard to ensure that each student’s needs are being met. This award is a reflection of the hard work, compassion, and dedication that our staff has for teaching kids!”

“We are very excited to have receive the designation for Distinguished School 2011,” said Assistant Principal Donna Hunter.

Elementary and secondary (middle and high) schools are recognized during alternate years. For the 2011 cycle, eligible middle and high schools are invited to participate.

Applications are reviewed for completeness by teams of educators from across the state under the direction of the California Department of Education. Applications deemed complete move forward in the process, receiving a site visit by a team of educators to validate the full implementation of the submitted practices.

Completing the detailed application was a team effort by Hunter with teachers Alice Chen and Helen Papadopoulos. Counselors GeorgeAnn Cusson and Greg Stokes were involved in the leadership and organization of the application and site visitation.

The selection process required schools to provide an in depth description of two “signature” practices implemented at the schools that are replicable and directly related to student success.

The entire staff deliberated, dialogue and gave input on the Signature Practices: Schoolwide Literacy and Building and Sustaining Community, Hunter said.

To support the school’s literacy program, Suzanne staff established a school wide Daily Silent Sustained Reading Program, so that students could understand that reading is a fundamental skill, not just in language arts, but also in math, science, social studies, physical education, and enrichment. The Accelerated Reader (AR) Program was also used to encourage independent reading and to build a love of lifelong reading. To increase writing skills, the entire staff embraced the Jane Schaffer Writing Program in all content areas so that students would become successful writers across the curriculum.

Developing a community-building practice was as unique and as dynamic as Suzanne’s student population. The primary goal was cultivating an environment where students feel connected and involved, teachers working with administration collaboratively sought ways to engage students. Examples of this practice include Character Education, Challenger of the Day, Peer Assisted Leaders (PALS) class, and the Community Awareness Reaching Education (CARE) Club.

“I am extremely proud of our entire staff for doing what they do every day!” Hunter said.

The 2011 Distinguished Schools will be recognized at a ceremony on Friday, May 20, at the Disneyland Hotel with a 2011 flag and plaque.