Ramona Elementary celebrates on Fired Up Friday

Some Ramona Elementary School Student Council members cover their ears as others toot the school's horn with noise-makers. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson
Some Ramona Elementary School Student Council members cover their ears as others toot the school's horn with noise-makers. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson
Kindergartners Joseph Flores Carrillo and Sergio Lima are among students diving for bubbles during a celebration of the school's state recognition as a Title 1 Academic Achievement School. Sentinel Photo/Maureen Robertson

By Maureen Robertson

As the public address system played the rock song “We Are the Champions,” Ramona Elementary students lined up around the courtyard at the start of school Friday to learn that theirs is a 2012 California Title 1 Academic Achievement School.

“You rock!” Principal Phyllis Munoz exclaimed during the all-school Fired Up Friday outdoor assembly. “This is the best place to be.”

For the second time in less than two weeks, Ramona Unified School District learned one of its elementary schools had received a state award.

“In a whirlwind of ongoing recognition, we offer our congratulations today to the students and staff of Ramona Elementary School for being recognized as a 2012 Title I Academic Achievement School,” Superintendent Robert Graeff said in an email to district employees last

Wednesday.

“The progress being made at these schools, which serve our neediest students, should serve as a beacon of hope for California,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said. “At a time of fiscal crisis and economic uncertainty, they continue to improve, building a brighter future for their students. Their accomplishments prove the value of investing in our schools, and I thank the hardworking parents, teachers, administrators, and school employees at these campuses for their efforts.”

“It’s a confirmation of the work that we’re doing and the direction we’re going with our kids,” said Principal Phyllis Munoz.

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Ramona Elementary Student Council members, from left, sixth-grader Emily Rios, fourth-grader JJ Rios, fifth-grader Emily Abarca, and sixth-grader Salvador Cobian celebrate the school’s academic achievement recognition with bubbles and noise-makers. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson

To qualify for this honor, Title I schools must meet a collection of stringent criteria, Graeff said, including:

• The school cannot be in Program Improvement.

• The elementary school must have a current Academic Performance Index (API) score above 810.

• The school must have met their schoolwide API targets and the API targets for each of their numerically significant subgroups for the past two years.

• The school must not have experienced any testing irregularities during STAR testing.

Title 1 schools receive federal money to help meet the educational needs of students living at or below the poverty line. Of the district’s 10 schools, Ramona Elementary has the highest percentage of students at or below the poverty line — 70.6 percent — reports Cathy Pierce, assistant superintendent of education services for the district. The percentage is based on the number of students receiving free and reduced-price meals, she explained. The district-wide percentage of students at or below the poverty line is 36.6 percent, she said.

“What they have done is phenomenal,” said Pierce. “It is a well-deserved honor...This is a very prestigious

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Banner on Ramona Elementary's front fence brings attention to the school's state honor. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson

award.”

According to the state Department of Education, Ramona Elementary met all of its growth targets.

“The criteria to qualify for the Title 1 award have become more rigorous in recent years,” said Torlakson. “To meet the criteria for this distinction, the school must demonstrate that all students are making significant progress toward proficiency on California’s academic content standards. Additionally, the school’s socioeconomically disadvantaged students must have doubled the achievement targets set for them for two consecutive years.”

Ramona Elementary’s API score for 2011 is 836, 30 points higher than the previous year.

“We didn’t get here overnight,” said Munoz, in her eighth year as Ramona Elementary principal. “We’ve been working steadily, being very thoughtful about the changes we’re making, and we’re beginning to see payoffs. It takes time.”

An old brown portable trailer on the campus leaks when it rains, and it will be removed this summer, said Munoz.

“We’re the oldest school in the district, but we’re the proudest,” she said.

Munoz, this year’s Region 18 Association of California School Adminstrators Elementary Principal of the Year, said, “it reminds me of something said to me a long, long time ago when I was looking for a preschool program for my own two kids...’You cannot judge the quality of the program by how beautiful the buildings are.’ I think that very much speaks to what goes on at Ramona Elementary School. People look at our school and they see an older school, but that’s not a statement to the quality of the teaching in the classrooms.”

“Congratulations to the staff, parents, and students of Ramona Elementary School for earning recognition and praise for our entire school community,” said Graeff.

More information on the state’s list of honored schools can be accessed at www.cde.ca.gov/ta/sr/aa/.

San Diego County Office of Education will hold a celebratory event for Ramona Elementary and other award-winning schools on May 23 in Mission Valley, said Graeff. Also at the event will be representatives of Barnett Elementary School.

As reported recently in the Sentinel, n March 29 Torlakson announced that Barnett Elementary is a 2012 California Distinguished School. When he announced that award to district employees, Graeff said, “Barnett joins a current three-year winning streak in our local district, as Ramona High and Mt. Woodson have received the same (Distinguished School) honor over the previous two years, while Olive Peirce (Middle School) was recognized earlier this year as a national School to Watch.”

   
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