Bella Vista staff poses with the awards.

By Sharyn Cornelius

Bella Vista Elementary School was recognized at the annual Shasta County School Educator Appreciation Celebration on May 6 for being named a 2014 California Distinguished School. Only three schools in Shasta County received the designation this year; the other two are Sequoia Middle School and Prairie Elementary School. Bella Vista also received an Exemplary Program award for the Physical Activity and Nutrition Program it set up after winning a seven-year Healthy Student Initiative grant in 2008, and the school’s principal, Kellie Dunham, was named an Association of California School Administrators “Administrator of the Year.”

The California Distinguished School awards are based on state test scores that show significant improvement over several years and successful efforts to raise the achievement level of students who had previously scored very low on the tests. Since 2007 Bella Vista’s API Scores have risen from 758 to 845 and its scores for socio-economically disadvantaged students rose from 737 to 836.

To receive Distinguished School award, the school must describe the steps it took to raise its test scores and close its achievement gap. In her application, Principal Kellie Dunham described how she and the teachers worked together to create a new master schedule for the school that encouraged teachers to spend more time on academics, especially language arts and math. They also began testing students more frequently to accurately determine which ones needed intervention to help them catch up and built intervention time into the master schedule. And finally, the administration created collaboration time for the teachers and offered them myriad opportunities for professional development.

As frosting on the cake, Bella Vista School was recently notified that it had received one of the coveted Title I Academic Achievement Awards from the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Of the 6000 California schools with Title I programs, only 106 qualified for the award, and Bella Vista is the only school in Shasta County to be so honored. To receive the distinction, the school must demonstrate that all students are making significant progress toward academic proficiency, and the school’s socio-economically disadvantaged students must have doubled their group achievement growth targets for two consecutive years.

Congratulations to Bella Vista for a job well done!