By Rose Marie Scott-Blair
Ramona High School has received two awards for excellence from the California Department of Education. One of them, for having “an exemplary career technical education program,” went to only seven schools in the whole state.
The other honor, being named a 2011 California Distinguished High School, makes Ramona High one of 50 in the state.
The leaders of the Ramona Unified School District couldn’t be more thrilled to have received these accolades.
“The entire district and your nine sister schools are celebrating this tremendous achievement and are bursting with pride that our district’s ‘flagship school’ has brought such positive recognition to the entire community,” Supt. Robert Graeff said in a congratulatory email to the Ramona High staff.
“These two awards are a recognition of excellence and data-driven results that can only be achieved when teachers, support staff and administrators are focused on providing students with a high-quality educational experience,” he said.
An obviously excited Ramona High Principal Tony Newman called the awards “fantastic.”
“I am so proud of this accomplishment, and the staff is very worthy of this recognition,” Newman said.
“And our fantastic students are part of this California Distinguished High School award. They are the ones who are responsible for us being able to meet the eligibility requirements.”
Newman called it a “partnership” between the school’s 1,850 students and “our wonderful staff,” and expressed the hope that the community “will be very proud that their high school has received this distinction,” which is shared with six other high schools in San Diego County.
Ramona High also received this same award, which is valid for four years, in 2005.
Newman also pointed out that the high school could not have earned this tribute “without the great work being done” in the district’s elementary and middle schools.
“We are the caboose in this educational train, and any success we have is a direct result of the outstanding and exemplary teaching and learning happening with the teachers in these schools,” Newman said. “This is truly a K-12 award for the Ramona school district.”
The other honor, for having “an exemplary career technical education (CTE) program,” is reserved for schools with CTE programs that “are above and beyond the norm,” according to a statement by the California Department of Education.
Of the seven high schools in the state who received this distinction for 2011, four are in San Diego County: Ramona High, which received the same award in 2005, Mira Mesa High, Coronado High, and San Dieguito High Academy.
The goal of the CTE program at Ramona High is “to prepare students for their professional lives and get them excited about post-graduate opportunities,” Newman said.
Subject areas include culinary arts, health care pathways, auto technology such as collision repair and welding, digital photography, and interior design.
“Our staff does a fantastic job of drawing kids into their programs and preparing them for vocations and professional careers,” Newman said. “The quality of the program is driven by the labor market, and we can give a lot of kids a direction about what they might want to do with their lives.”
Graeff called both awards “a real testament to the quality of teaching and administration on the Ramona High campus.”
“So often in Ramona, we are overshadowed by Poway,” Graeff said. “But the district’s Academic Performance Index has gone up every year for the past 10 years.”
Last year Mt. Woodson Elementary also received the Distinguished School award.
“For a small district in a semi-rural community, we think our families have every right to celebrate and recognize that their kids perform just as well as students in the most exclusive parts of the county,” Graeff said. “And we have the data to back that up.”
If there is any disappointment at all about Ramona High’s new honors, it is that the annual banquet to present the plaques and celebrate, planned for Anaheim later this month, has been canceled because of travel restrictions caused by the state budget crisis.
“But we are still going to celebrate,” Newman said.
Does he plan on getting any of the Distinguished School items and logo souvenirs offered by private vendors?
“As soon as the catalog comes, I’m buying,” Newman said. “Flags, T-shirts, whatever, I’m buying.”