State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell called
Las Animas Elementary School Principal Silvia Reyes earlier this
week notifying her that her school was one of 343 exemplary
California public elementary schools from 189 districts in 39
counties that has been selected as a 2008 California Distinguished
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell called Las Animas Elementary School Principal Silvia Reyes earlier this week notifying her that her school was one of 343 exemplary California public elementary schools from 189 districts in 39 counties that has been selected as a 2008 California Distinguished School.
“These outstanding elementary schools represent many different kinds of communities, organizational structures, and student populations,” said O’Connell. “Sixty-four of these schools come from small, rural communities, 11 are charter schools, and nearly half or 156 schools have significant populations of students living in poverty and are supported by federal Title I funding.”
“I’m speechless!” Reyes said, trying to find the words to express her happiness. She was better able to articulate her feelings in a letter she will send home to parents. “Seven years ago, we created a vision of high expectations for every student at Las Animas. We believe a student will rise as high as you set the achievement bar for them. Set it low and watch them flounder. Set it in the middle and watch them meander. Set it high, and watch them soar,” she wrote.
This year, the selection criteria for the Distinguished School program were more stringent than ever. Schools wrote a substantive narrative application and then were subject to an extensive site validation. Las Animas was chosen to participate in the competition based on its continually rising test scores. Only 2 to 3 percent of schools in the state hold the title of California Distinguished School and Las Animas is the only elementary school in Gilroy to hold this high honor, Reyes said. Ascencion Solorsano Middle School earned the award last year.
O’Connell said he was honored to join in the excitement.
“From their stories, it became clear that they share a school-wide vision of excellence where every student can succeed and achieve at the very highest levels of performance,” he said.
The 2008 California Distinguished Schools will be honored during an awards ceremony and dinner at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim on May 16. Reyes plans to attend along with a group of parents and teachers.
“We couldn’t have done this without parent support, and I mean everything,” Reyes said. “They are the first and most important teachers in a child’s life. And it’s good for teachers to get validated for their hard work. They don’t get the recognition they deserve.”
The California School Recognition Program is now in its 23rd year and identifies and honors the state’s most exemplary and inspiring public schools with the California Distinguished School Award. Although participation is voluntary, the award is highly sought after by schools in all areas of the state. Elementary and secondary schools are recognized during alternate years.
For the current year, 839 elementary schools submitted applications and were identified for eligibility on the basis of their Academic Performance Index and Adequate Yearly Progress results. All applicants underwent a rigorous selection process conducted by the California Department of Education, with the help of many local educators from across the state, and in partnership with the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association.
The list of schools may be viewed at