Valencia High School, Rancho Pico Junior High recognized by state


In honor of what his administration recognizes as outstanding education programs and practice, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced Valencia High School and Rancho Pico Junior High School as being 2019 Distinguished Schools.

In addition to being among the few districts throughout to state to have one, let alone two schools recognized by the California Department of Education, the William S. Hart Union High School District as a whole was also the only district in all of Los Angeles County to be recognized as an Exemplary District, according to a district press release distributed Tuesday.

“Schools are awarded for achieving exceptional student performance for two consecutive school years or closing the achievement gap between two school years,” the release reads. “For the district award, the state’s recognition only goes to districts that have made the greatest positive impact on student outcomes.”

“It really validates all the hard work our staff puts into their jobs each day,” said VHS Principal Stephen Ford. “It also validates our students and the hard work they put in, and the parents that support us.”

“This is the third Rancho Pico has earned this distinguishment … it’s meaningful because it recognizes the hard work of our teachers, our staff and our students,” said Rancho Pico Principal Erum Velek. “And it wouldn’t be possible without the support of our families.

According to Hart district Public Relations Officer Dave Caldwell, this is a “big deal” for the district and speaks to the quality of work being done by on-site faculty members and staff.

“Something like only 18 districts were nominated in the whole state for the district award,” Caldwell said.

Test scores, suspension rates and graduation rates are some of the indicators used by CDE to determine if a school is eligible to even apply for the distinguishment, according to release.

“It is a real honor to be selected to represent all of Los Angeles County as an ‘Exemplary District,’” said Vicki Engbrecht, superintendent of the Hart District. “This achievement is the result of an outstanding team of dedicated and caring teachers, administrators, counselors and classified support staff working to implement the vision of our governing board.”

All distinguished schools and districts are honored in April during a ceremony held in Anaheim. For more information on the Distinguished School Program and California Exemplary Districts, visit

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