Carver, Longfellow and Naples elementary schools are among 484 California Distinguished Schools announced recently by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell. The schools were recognized for academic excellence and closing achievement gaps.
Thirty-nine LBUSD schools have now won this top state honor. Longfellow and Naples are repeat winners. For Carver, the state award holds special meaning because it is the school’s first such award, and because last year the school’s principal, Lisa Stephenson, died after a long struggle with cancer. She had worked at the school for less than two years, succeeding Judy McEachen, who retired and then also passed away.
“Our staff was in tears, they were so excited about this accomplishment,” said Carver Principal Jennifer Rodarte, who shared one teacher’s observation that “Lisa Stephenson and Judy McEachen are looking upon us now.”
The changes in leadership at Carver, coupled with continuing budget cuts and, more recently, the teacher layoff notices caused by the state budget crisis, made Carver’s win all the more incredible, the principal said.
“After all of these difficulties, with everyone worried about their jobs, this award announcement was such a welcome sprinkle of happiness,” Rodarte said. “Through all of these challenges, our teachers rose above and raised achievement. These teachers work together as a family and a team. It’s all about the strength of the teachers, and how united they are about doing what’s best for kids.”
State Superintendent O’Connell acknowledged some of the tough challenges that the winning schools have overcome.
“It is an honor to recognize the schools, and the students, parents, teachers and administrators who helped earn this most prestigious distinction," O'Connell said.
"These schools have persevered despite state budget cutbacks that have cut deeply into the budgets of local school districts,” O’Connell said. “I encourage educators throughout our state to review the signature practices that Distinguished Schools are using to improve student achievement."
Winners were identified for eligibility on the basis of state and federal data, and how well they closed achievement gaps.
All applicants underwent a stringent selection process conducted by the California Department of Education with the help of many educators throughout the state.
The winning schools will be honored during an awards ceremony and dinner at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim on June 4.