First published in the Sept. 23 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
The La Cañada Unified School District prides itself on delivering a robust education, and it received affirmation of such work Tuesday as two of its elementary schools were recognized as National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education, a coveted honor given to 325 schools nationwide.
Palm Crest and Paradise Canyon elementary schools were among 28 California schools to be recognized by Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona for their “academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.”
“This year’s cohort of honorees demonstrates what is possible when committed educators and school leaders create vibrant, welcoming and affirming school cultures where rich teaching and learning can flourish,” said Cardona in a statement. “I commend … all our Blue Ribbon honorees for working to keep students healthy and safe while meeting their academic, social, emotional and mental health needs.
“In the face of unprecedented circumstances, you found creative ways to engage, care for, protect and teach our children. Blue Ribbon Schools have so much to offer and can serve as a model for other schools and communities so that we can truly build back better.”
Cory Pak, Palm Crest Elementary principal, expressed his gratitude by crediting teachers and students for their work.
“I believe Palm Crest’s success in creating a positive learning environment for our students directly results from dedicated and talented teachers, hard-working staff and the supportive parent community,” Pak wrote in an email. “Our collective efforts and commitment to bring out the best in our children brought this wonderful recognition to our community. I am most proud of my students for their achievements and their commitment and effort to be the best they can be each day.”
Pak also acknowledged LCUSD Superintendent Wendy Sinnette and the Governing Board for their “leadership and guidance over the last 18 months.”
“Together, we carefully planned and successfully navigated through the difficult pandemic period.”
Paradise Canyon Elementary Principal Carrie Hetzel echoed Pak’s appreciation for the district and community “after a couple of challenging years” brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Paradise Canyon Elementary School’s staff, parents and community are dedicated to providing a safe and nurturing learning environment for all of our students,” she wrote in an email. “PCY teachers are incredibly dedicated to teaching their students every school year, and our COVID-19 challenges are no exception.”
Preceding PCR and PCY on the Blue Ribbon Schools list, the district’s La Cañada Elementary was honored in 2013 and La Cañada High School has received the distinction three times (1993, 2004 and 2015).
“We are extremely proud of their achievements and of the excellence of all of our LCUSD schools,” Sinnette said in a statement.