Excited school officials joined students, teachers and administrators of La Cañada High School 7/8 Friday morning to celebrate a very special occasion. The campus was recently named a "California School to Watch" by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform.
Selected for its academic excellence, inclusiveness and responsiveness to the needs and interests of its students, LCHS 7/8 joins a fairly exclusive club statewide. Just 58 other California middle schools have been recognized since the program began in 2003. Fewer than 400 campuses enjoy the title nationally.
"Today symbolizes what can happen in an educational institution when you have a commitment by parents, staff, the district and the community all pulling together with one common goal, and that is providing the best education possible," said 7/8 Principal Ryan Zerbel. "I'm proud of all you students. I'm honored to be your principal."
La Cañada Unified School District Supt. Wendy Sinnette was among the dignitaries on stage throughout the ceremony. When she spoke, she thanked students for their hard work.
"This recognition is all about you," she said, praising students for their academic and personal accomplishments. "It's also attributed to the fact that you have amazing teachers."
Dr. Irv Howard, president of the National Forum in charge of "Schools to Watch — Taking Center Stage" program, congratulated students and explained more about the program.
Howard was one of a team of representatives who paid a visit to the LCHS campus in December to validate the school's application. They visited classes, interviewing students, teachers and parents.
The committee was impressed not only by the high level of the academic program, he said, but by the diverse extracurricular offerings and parent involvement.
"Thank your parents when you go home tonight, because it is truly because of them that you've found yourself in this special place at this special time," Howard told students.
Program guidelines state that representatives from the selection committee will return three years from now, and again in six, to check on the campus' continued progress. In the meantime, LCHS 7/8 is to serve as a mentor and role model for Los Angeles-area schools that may be struggling and in need of improvement.
Friday's celebration included the presentation of a banner proclaiming the school's new title, held aloft by dignitaries and members of the school's Associated Student Body before a cheering crowd.
As the crowd filed out of the gym, Zerbel said he was thrilled to have the site's hard work and achievement validated by an outside body. While the students were aware the school had been awarded, he added, they likely didn't know what a high honor had been accomplished.
Seventh-grader Ryan Chen, who attended the assembly, explained his take on the morning's events and why the school won the award.
"We were putting in a lot of work, and we were doing things correctly. We went to school every day and we learned instead of fooling around and not paying attention," he said.
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