Six Irvine elementary schools have earned California Distinguished School honors for 2012

A half-dozen elementary schools in IUSD have earned California’s highest level of recognition for public schools, state officials announced Thursday.

Alderwood, Canyon View, College Park, Culverdale, Deerfield and Santiago Hills were each named California Distinguished Schools for 2012, along with 36 additional sites throughout Orange County, by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

“This recognition serves to validate the hard work and commitment of our teachers, students, parents, staff and volunteers, as well as the support of this incredible community,” said IUSD Superintendent Terry L. Walker. “Any time a campus is recognized as a California Distinguished School, it’s a remarkable achievement. For six of our sites to earn this honor in a single year is extraordinary.”

Now in its 27th year, the California Distinguished Schools program alternately highlights elementary and secondary campuses that have demonstrated educational excellence and progress in narrowing the achievement gap. In 2012, 387 elementary schools were identified after each submitted a written application – one that included a comprehensive description of at least two signature practices – and took part in a county-led review process.

Just to apply for the honor, schools had to first meet a raft of eligibility criteria, based in part on federal and state accountability measures.

Michael Parham, president of IUSD’s Board of Education, said IUSD’s six California Distinguished Schools were “emblematic of the incredible work that takes place each and every day in classrooms throughout our district.”

“In spite of the fiscal challenges we’ve faced, our teachers and support staff consistently pursue a path of continuous improvement to provide incredible educational opportunities for our students,” Parham said. “These types of accolades have become almost commonplace in Irvine, but they should be a source of great pride as they truly reflect the passion and dedication of our employees, our students and this community.”

Though the half-dozen Distinguished Schools in IUSD had long since submitted their applications, many principals were just getting confirmation of their status on Thursday.

“It’s very exciting to see that the list is posted and that we’re on there – that’s wonderful,” said Aaron Jetzer, principal at Culverdale Elementary. “I think more than anything it just validates the amazing dedication of the staff and the community. It’s showing that we’re meeting all the kids’ needs at school, with all the variables that we have, and that we’re doing a good job of closing the achievement gap.”

Campuses in the Irvine Unified School District have now earned the label of California Distinguished School 54 times since the program began in 1986. This year’s honorees will hold the designation for four years, and all have agreed to share their signature strategies with other schools that hope to replicate their successes.

“We’re thrilled with the recognition, which is a product of everybody’s hard work,” said College Park Principal Alan Battenfield. “This is the second one in a handful of years and we’re really proud of that.”

For more information on California Distinguished Schools, or to view the complete list of 2012 recipients, go to