Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The State Department of Education lauds Vanden, Rodriguez Fairfield-Suisun high schools

Article Last Updated: Wednesday, Apr 20, 2005 - 12:18:51 am PDT

State lauds Vanden, Rodriguez high schools

By Audrey Wong

- Rodriguez and Vanden high schools are among the state's best.

The State Department of Education announced the 192 distinguished middle and high schools Tuesday - choosing both Rodriguez and Vanden for the honor. Mare Island Technology Academy High School in Vallejo is also among the winners.

Rodriguez Principal Kevin French said the honor reaffirms his feelings about his school.

"I tell people we're a great school," French said. "It's nice for people to come from the outside and validate that."

This is the first time Rodriguez received the title in its four-year history. The only other Fairfield-Suisun high school with distinguished status in the 20-year history of the award was Armijo High School in 1988. Vanden High School was named a distinguished school in 1994.

The state alternates years where it judges elementary schools and middle and high schools for distinguished school status. To qualify for the title, schools must have high state test scores.

Schools must prove that they demonstrate excellence in several themes and areas, French said. Teachers and administrators must show they are teaching state educational standards and their students understand those standards. The state looks at what each school's visions are and what they are doing to reach those goals, French said.

Evaluators who visited Rodriguez for the distinguished school award could sense that the school's school staff embraced the school's vision, French said.

"Our theme for our school is 'Success for all and failure is not an option,' " French said. "It kind of drives a lot of our activities. We want all students to be successful at every level. We don't want to give students options of failing."

The state also examines whether curriculums are relevant to state standards, how rigorous courses are and relationships between school staff and students.

Vanden Principal Sheila McCabe said evaluators who visited her campus spoke enthusiastically about the school's culture.

"They could sense people really liked Vanden High School," McCabe said. "You really got the sense that people cared about each other. When kids talked about (school) being comfortable, proud, enriching and competitive. They said it felt like home, safe and welcoming. We focus on diversity, staff members are encouraging. It's kind of neat how evaluators talked more about the feeling they got spending the day here."

Reach Audrey Wong at 427-6951 or at awong@dailyrepublic.net.

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