News Release

April 11, 2013

Jonata Middle and Orcutt Junior High named Distinguished Schools

Jonata Middle School in Buellton and Orcutt Junior High School have been named California Distinguished Schools for 2013 because they have “demonstrated educational excellence for all students and progress in narrowing the achievement gap among student subgroups that threatens their future and the future of California,” the state Department of Education announced Thursday.

“Access to high-quality educational experiences should be the right of every student in California and it is the responsibility of the schools, districts, county offices of education, and the California Department of Education (CDE) to work together toward that end. The CDE has made closing the achievement gap a top priority and strongly believes that making schools work for all students, regardless of their background, condition, or circumstances, is an imperative for a strong education system and a strong California,” according to the department.

The program recognizes elementary and secondary schools in alternating years. Distinguished Schools must meet a variety of eligibility criteria, including designated federal and state accountability measures, and they must provide an in-depth description of two “signature practices” that their staff members believe have contributed to the success of their students.

For applications that are accepted, each school receives a site visit by a team of local educators to validate the full implementation of the “signature practices” described in the application. In Santa Barbara County, those visits were conducted in the first week of March by a team of 10 educators whose schools range from Santa Barbara to Santa Maria. The local program is coordinated by Ellen Barger, Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Program Support at the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

Distinguished Schools are honored at regional award ceremonies where the State Superintendent of Public Instruction presents each school with a 2013 Distinguished School plaque and flag. The events and awards are funded by donations from many California corporations and statewide educational organizations.

For more information about the local program, call Ellen Barger, Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Program Support for the Santa Barbara County Education Office; 964-4711, ext. 5066

For information about the local winning programs:
-- Principal Susan Salucci, Orcutt Junior High School, Orcutt Union School District; 938-8700, ext. 8740.
-- Principal Kathy Fayram, Jonata Middle School, Buellton Union School District; 688-4222.

For more information on the state program, go to