Observations made during a site visit to South Pasadena High School have left Superintendent Joel Shapiro and his staff smiling with anticipation of another California Distinguished School designation.
SPHS was the only South Pas school eligible to apply this year, since the others have received the honor within the past four years, Shapiro said Wednesday. A school must wait at least four years to re-apply, since the designation is good for four years. Additionally, this was the year for secondary schools to apply, so the middle school was the only other possibility, and they received it two years ago.
On Tuesday a team of five administrators from the Los Angeles County Office of Education visited the high school to validate the school's application for Distinguished School status. The validation team will make a recommendation to the California Department of Education, and the final decision is made by State Superintendent Tom Torlakson.
"At the end of the day the team shared their very positive recommendation that SPHS should be honored as a California Distinguished School,'' Shapiro wrote in an email.
Some of the team's observations from Tuesday's visit:
- Outstanding collaboration among teachers and among students. In fact, a spirit of collaboration is pervasive at the school.
- A culture of trust among staff members - willing to take risks and problem solve together; willing to talk about challenges and areas for improvement.
- Excellent student engagement, both in the classroom and in a range of school activities.
- School environment makes students feel safe. Students who were interviewed reported that they feel safe.
- Outstanding parent support through PTSA, Boosters, and SPEF.
- Everyone is proud to be at SPHS. They indicated that they would not want to be anywhere else.
- Specific programs and departments were also given special commendations - "amazing" student newspaper; ASB and student leadership; Science department (students have the chance to go "above and beyond" usual expectations); P.E. department (students have the chance to design their own fitness goals and activities); World Languages ( there were excellent strategies for helping special needs students); Career Technical Education classes ("phenomenal enthusiasm" by teachers and students); interactive notebooks in World History classes.
These observations were made after just one day, a typical day at SPHS, Shapiro noted.
SPUSD has earned the distinction several times. Arroyo Vista and Marengo were awarded CDS in 2011, Monterey Hills was awarded CDS in 2012. The official announcement regdarding the high school's CDS should come in April.