9 Campuses Vie for State’s Distinguished School Award


Nine Ventura County public elementary schools have been nominated to receive a state Department of Education award, and over the next six weeks each will receive a visit from judges.

Winners of the 1998 California Distinguished School award will be announced April 27.

Among county school districts, Conejo Valley Unified this year has the most nominees for the award: Glenwood, Park Oaks and Westlake Hills elementary schools. Westlake Hills will receive state “site validation” visitors Thursday. Visits are scheduled at the other campuses through April.

Other nominees include Oxnard Elementary School District’s Norma Harrington and Marina West elementary schools, Pleasant Valley Elementary School District’s Tierra Linda Elementary School, Santa Paula Elementary School District’s Grace S. Thille Elementary School, Simi Valley Unified School District’s Hollow Hills Fundamental School and Ventura Unified School District’s Poinsettia Elementary School.


The state award brings no money, but provides a coveted distinction many schools use to sell themselves.

“Schools make beautiful plaques to show they’ve won,” said Barbara Ryan, Conejo Valley district director of elementary education. “You’d be amazed how many phone calls we get from people seeing how many Distinguished schools we have . . . It’s definitely a factor that people use when choosing an area to live.”

Qualities that can win the award include a school’s level of parental involvement, creativity and effectiveness of the curriculum, campus safety programs, a high level of teacher training and good test scores. The designation lasts for two years.

All 5,000 public elementary schools in the state, except those that have won since 1995, were invited to apply. Of those, 598 schools applied, and 207 were selected to be visited by judges.

To Westlake Hills Principal Rachelle Morga, being nominated for the award is a “validation of what we do here.”

She said it has taken months to compile the 30-page application that was forwarded to the state detailing the school’s qualifications.

“Anyone likes recognition,” she said. “It’s a pat on the back from the state.”