Two SLO County schools make the list of the best in California

Paulding Middle School was one of two local schools that earned a California Distinguished Schools Award.
Paulding Middle School was one of two local schools that earned a California Distinguished Schools Award.

Two San Luis Obispo County middle schools have been named 2019 California Distinguished Schools, joining 160 other middle and high schools statewide.

Santa Lucia Middle School in Cambria and Paulding Middle School in Arroyo Grande were the two schools honored. The awards were chosen based on criteria including test scores, suspension rates and graduation rates.

Santa Lucia, in the Coast Unified School District, has 129 students including many English learners, said Principal Kyle Martin.

“We’ve consistently seen improvement over the years, and in each of the past five years,” Martin said. “We have challenging demographics, including many low socioeconomic students. We have an amazing staff that’s constantly looking at data and kids in front of them.”

Martin said that the school has used data, including from the California School Dashboard — which assesses information such as test scores, suspension rates and graduation rates — to “help us make those decisions” about how to help students succeed academically.

Martin said class sizes range from the high teens to low 20s in the smaller Cambria school, and students often take different classes from the same teacher, which helps develop continuity and relationships between teachers and students.

“My own son just graduated from my own school, and I couldn’t have been more pleased to have him go there,” Martin said.

Paulding horticulture.jpg
Paulding Middle School students participating in a horticulture project. Paulding Middle School Facebook page

Paulding Principal Edward Arrigoni said he was “amazed and humbled at receiving the award” at his school of 592 students, where class sizes typically range from 25 to 30 students.

“On a day-to-day basis, I get to see the amazing work of the staff and students at Paulding, so it’s amazing to see our hard work recognized at the state level,” Arrigoni said.

Arrigoni gave credit to the faculty and staff at large, saying “every teacher, administrator, secretary, custodian and instructional assistant works together to make Paulding successful.”

“We have excellent programs at Paulding, but it’s the people who work at Paulding who make those programs successful,” he said.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond issued a statement this week, saying “award winners represent examples of not just excellent teaching, learning, and collaboration, but also highly successful school climate efforts ranging from real-time conflict resolution to positive behavior intervention.”

“I would like to commend these schools for fighting for a better future for our students, closing achievement gaps, and improving academic performance,” Thurmond said.

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Nick Wilson covers the city of San Luis Obispo and has been a reporter at The Tribune in San Luis Obispo since 2004. He also writes regularly about K-12 education, Cal Poly, Morro Bay and Los Osos. He is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley and is originally from Ojai.