Manuel F. Hernandez is the only Tulare County school to make statewide list of 287 Distinguished Schools


VISALIA – For the second time, Manuel F. Hernandez Elementary School has been recognized as a Distinguished School by the California Department of Education.

It is the only elementary school in Tulare County to receive the recognition this year, which is based upon a school’s academic achievement and documentation of how that achievement was accomplished.

The “signature practices” documented by the school include a schoolwide, consistent focus on teaching writing and an emphasis on student engagement through cooperative small groups.

The recognition covers school year 2016-2017, when the school was under the leadership of Cheri LaVerne, now principal at Highland Elementary School.

“This honor represents the summation of a great deal of hard work by Manuel F. Hernandez staff and students,” noted Todd Oto, Ed.D., superintendent of Visalia Unified School District. “We were proud to announce El Diamante’s honor as a Gold Ribbon school last year – again the only Tulare County school to receive that recognition. Our teachers, students, principals and parents are doing outstanding work.”

Manuel F. Hernandez teachers focused on the growth mindset, along with an emphasis on guided reading to help ensure that every student who is struggling gets the small-group instruction he or she needs, LaVerne explained.

“We initiated a systematic, consistent approach year after year, and that consistency really helped the children. We used reading books that allowed teachers to better pair the right book with each child so that they can build on their own success. If the book is too hard, children tend to shut down and they don’t try.”

“Professional Learning Communities” were also in place, which give each teacher the opportunity to collaborate with peers, set goals and develop lesson plans together.

“This recognition is very exciting,” LaVerne added. “Our hard work and dedication in getting systems in place really does benefit the kids. It is rewarding to know that others see the growth and that the teachers are acknowledged for their hard work. This feels amazing!”

VUSD will be represented at the awards ceremony in Anaheim on May 3. Manuel F. Hernandez was among 287 California elementary schools honored under the Distinguished Schools program.

Sponsored by California Casualty, the 2018 California Distinguished Schools Program recognizes California elementary schools that have made exceptional gains in implementing academic content and performance standards adopted by the State Board of Education.

Schools that applied were eligible based on their performance and progress on the state indicators as described on the California School Dashboard. Indicators include test scores, suspension rates, and English learner progress. Schools were also eligible to apply for a California Exemplary Program Award in Arts Education, and/or Physical Activity and Nutrition Education, which will be announced at a later time. These award winners represent examples of not just excellent teaching, learning, and collaborating, but also highly successful school climate efforts, ranging from real time conflict resolution to positive behavior intervention. 

For more information, please visit the California Distinguished Schools Program on the California Department of Education’s web site.

“These schools implement outstanding educational programs and practices that help California students realize their potential, and put them on the path to achieve their dreams,” said Torlakson. “Every day at these schools, teachers, administrators and classified employees, working with parents, apply their dedication, creativity, and talents toward providing a great education for all their students.”

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