Tulare, Fresno County schools exceed standards

Fresno, Tulare County schools join the vanguard of exceptional educational standards achieved during the COVID-19 pandemic with prestigious California award recognition

SACRAMENTO, CALIF. – Elementary schools in Tulare County and Fresno County are being celebrated as shining examples of student achievement, joining over 300 California schools in the prestigious California Distinguished Schools Award program announced on Jan. 6.  

Tulare County’s Lincoln Charter Elementary in Kingsburg joins Fresno County’s Columbine Elementary in Delano and Dry Creek Elementary in Clovis as schools that demonstrated dedication, resilience and collaboration to their students.

Tim Thomas, principal of Columbine Elementary in Delano, is honored that Columbine has been recognized. He attributes his students’ success to the strong teamwork exemplified by his staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 “It’s quite an honor and my staff did such a phenomenal job during the pandemic,” Thomas said. “We taught every day during the pandemic and even put aide’s in kid’s houses to help them get stuff done.”

When students returned to school, Columbine staff used traditional remedial education opportunities to reinforce any education standards lost while students were learning at home. According to Thomas, this made all the difference for student learning outcomes. 

“We spent a lot of time in remediation programs like Saturday and summer schools to make up for lost time,” said Thomas. “We have a cooperative staff, a supportive board, and a great community.”

Lauren Galli, principal of Lincoln Charter Elementary in Kingsburg, broke the news to her staff yesterday who were thrilled by the recognition of their hard work. Galli pointed to the family atmosphere cultivated by staff and students as the key to Lincoln’s success. 

“We pride ourselves on being very much a family in the way that we work and educate,” Galli said. “It really helped us during the pandemic, which came with its challenges, but the incredible teamwork allowed us to improve and excel.”

As past recipients distinguished in 2006, Dry Creek Elementary in Clovis has worked hard to maintain high standards for student learning. According to principal Aaron Cooke, community support for Dry Creek students has not waned during difficult times. 

“Our kids have persevered, learned coping skills, and become more resilient with the support of our exceptional staff,” Cook said. “I must give credit to our credentialed and classified employees as they have gone above and beyond to take care of our students, community and each other.”

The distinguished school program returned this year after the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily suspended reporting of state and local student data. According to the California Department of Education, the award is one of the most important ways to celebrate exceptional schools since its 1985 inception. 

The department also states that multiple measures are used to identify eligible schools based on performance. Specifically, criteria such as assessment results, chronic absenteeism, suspension rates and socioeconomic data are all considered. 

The California Distinguished Schools program recognizes schools in one of two categories: closing the achievement gap and achieving exceptional student performance. Elementary schools and middle and high schools alternate years so awardees hold the title for two years.

Start typing and press Enter to search