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Thursday, Apr 11 2013 05:17 PM

Three local schools declared 'distinguished'

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    Liberty High School was named a California Distinguished School.

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BY LAURA LIERA Californian staff writer lliera@bakersfield.com

With excitement in her voice, Principal Libby Wyatt was excited to hear that Liberty High School had been named one of the three California Distinguished Schools in Kern County Thursday afternoon.

"They hadn't notified me at all so I called the district and they said it was true, so I am ecstatic," Wyatt said after The Californian broke the news to her.

This is Liberty's first year being recognized by the state.

The distinguished schools program honors some of the state's most exemplary and inspiring public schools, ones that demonstrate significant gains in academic achievement, according to the California Department of Education.

Along with Liberty High, Norris Middle School and Fruitvale Junior High were also recognized.

All schools submitted an application late last year and were notified through phone calls or emails Thursday. A total of 218 public middle schools and high schools were recognized in the state.

Wyatt said Liberty's staff and students deserved the kudos after all the hard work they have done.

"Teachers and students go that extra mile that really makes me proud," Wyatt said. "The students go to tutoring classes to really understand questions they might not understand and it's amazing to see."

As part of the application process, schools had to provide two signature practices that they believe puts them ahead of every other school in the state. Wyatt chose to identify the collaboration between teachers and the culture-against-failure-atmosphere they have created on campus.

"There are a lot of students that don't have support outside of school and it's important that when they step onto campus, they have the support of every single teacher that will strive to do everything possible for them not to fail," she said.

Following similar academic footsteps, Principal Leslie Roberts of Fruitvale Junior High has created an academic culture at school that has allowed her students to perform at their highest potential.

"We organize ourselves academically and collaborate with one another to create a learning community," Roberts said. "Through our culture of learning, students can join clubs, learn Spanish, join the drama class and many other electives that will prepare them for high school and their future."

This is Fruitvale Junior High's fifth award and the Fruitvale School District's eighteenth.

Fruitvale district Superintendent Mary Westendorf is glad the junior high staff and students are getting recognized again.

"To know that the staff's focus is on each student and their education is just rewarding," she said. "It's a validation that we are doing and meeting student needs that will allow them to have an exemplary quality of education."

Validation is something that Norris Middle School District Superintendent Steve Shelton is honored to have received.

"The staff and students work hard every day and it's great to be distinguished and to have that recognition," Shelton said.

This was the first time the school had applied.

"The application has changed and it changed for the better in my opinion," Shelton said. "Now they have a team of educators that come down and spend the day observing the school, validating what we submitted in the application and they saw the type of school we are first-hand."

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