Planada Elementary School has been nominated to compete for the 2013 National Blue Ribbon Schools Program, one of 35 in California and the only one from Merced County singled out.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced the nomination, which singles out exemplary high-performing schools, some of which have at least 40 percent of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Planada Elementary School Principal Richard Lopez said he hopes to get a team of staff members together to complete the detailed Blue Ribbon application by the late February deadline.
"It's fantastic for our school, school district and the community," Lopez said. "There has been a lot of work put in over the last six years getting teachers and staff on board and providing teachers with the tools they need."
The Planada school has 520 kindergarten through fifth-grade students and 30 teachers. Planada School Superintendent Jose Gonzalez lauded Lopez and the school's leadership team for their accomplishments.
"This is a tremendous honor for our learning community," Gonzalez said. "This recognizes and validates the staff and leadership team. I'm extremely excited about being recognized; just to be nominated is an honor in itself. I credit Mr. Lopez's leadership and the professionalism of the staff."
Lopez said Planada Elementary School has a high population of English language learners and closing the achievement gap is a high priority.
"In 2012, we had two simple guiding principles," Gonzalez said. " 'Reach No Limits' and 'Don't Blame the Kids'! We translated these guiding principles into action by focusing on strategies that consistently focused adults on improving student learning and that reinforce each other: collaboration on data use, direct instruction and layers of intervention."
Gonzalez said leadership focused on adopting new teaching methods and honed in on a best-practice approach. He said the district is committed to creating a districtwide culture and common language focusing resources on student learning and on adult learning to support that goal.
Board President Daniel Chavez said the Blue Ribbon nomination is something great for the community. He spent 37 years as an educator in Planada schools, the last 16 years as a principal, before retiring five years ago.
Chavez said the district has a new corps of young, motivated teachers who are diligent and hardworking. He said the board tried to supply curriculum and training materials to support teachers' efforts.
"As educators we continually learn so that we can continue to be the best in our profession and therefore provide excellent instruction in every classroom," Gonzalez said. "I look forward to the continuum of learning that has been established and the commitment to 'Reaching No Limits' to help our students succeed."
Torlakson applauded principals, teachers, staff and families whose commitment to learning has led to success in the classroom.
"Schools nominated for this significant recognition are performing at very high levels or are making impressive strides in student progress under challenging circumstances," Torlakson said.
The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program is part of a larger U.S. Department of Education effort to identify and disseminate knowledge about best school leadership and teaching practices.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.