Palm Crest Earns ‘California Distinguished School’ Title Again

Palm Crest Elementary School was recently named a California Distinguished School but Principal Cory Pak said the distinction is not necessarily his focus.
Pak was the principal of West Creek Academy in Saugus Union School District in 2017 before he came to La Cañada Flintridge. West Creek Academy also received the state distinction.
The California Department of Education list of 323 distinguished elementary schools — including PCR — was announced in a statement from state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, who announced the schools in a public statement. The schools will be honored in an awards ceremony on Feb. 10 at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim.
“It’s not necessarily like every two years that’s my goal,” Pak said. “However, our goal is to always improve student achievement and improve attendance and our students’ social and emotional well-being. If we do those things right, the awards will come.”
Kathryn Edwards, a coordinator with the Los Angeles County Office of Education, said the school was selected using the criterion of exceptional student performance.
Pak said for the school to be eligible for the award, all students in the school must achieve the color blue, which is the highest level of five different color codes on the California Dashboard school accountability system. The system includes graduation rate, college and career readiness, English learner process, suspension rate and more.
He said PCR earned a blue code in the 2018 California Dashboard categories of English language arts and math; suspension rate indicator (based on number of students suspended at least once in either the current or prior year); and chronic absenteeism indicator (based on the number of students who were absent for 10% or more of the total instructional school days).
Pak said PCR sent an application during the first week of December after learning it was eligible to apply.
“We wrote about our STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] computer lab program over the last four years, including this year,” Pak said. After the application was sent, the California Department of Education reviewed it. “Thankfully Palm Crest was chosen,” Pak said.
He said the 2018 California Dashboard scores were a reflection of the 2017-18 school year. Pak thanked former PCR Principal Karen Hurley as well as the teachers and students who were at the school during that time.
“It’s an honor for everyone,” said Pak, adding that the California Distinguished School honors are given every two years for elementary schools.
The last time the school received the honor was in 2014, he said. La Cañada Elementary and Paradise Canyon Elementary schools also earned the title that year. There were no honors given for a time because there was a transition period where no state testing was conducted.
“I’ve been assistant principal or principal at four different schools before this, and at each of those schools we received a California Distinguished School. So I feel very fortunate and blessed to be named a California Distinguished School as an administrator [in the Saugus Union School District] and now I can put Palm Crest on there.”
In a statement, La Cañada Unified School District Superintendent Wendy Sinnette thanked Assistant Principal Amy Marcoullier as well as the current and past principal.
“On behalf of the Governing Board and cabinet, we could not be more proud of Palm Crest Elementary School’s recognition as a California Distinguished School,” Sinnette said.
Thurmond thanked all of the schools that made the list.
“These outstanding schools don’t just educate students; they also provide the young people of California the tools they need to be successful after graduation,” he said. “Thanks go to all the staff at these schools — teachers, administrators, classified employees — and parents, who are working together to provide high-quality educational experiences for their students.”

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