April 11, 2008

Otay Elementary School Earns Top State-wide Recognition

The honors continue to come to Otay Elementary School in the Chula Vista Elementary School District. The California Association for Bilingual Education recently honored Otay with the association’s 2008 Seal of Excellence award. Otay is the only school in the state to receive the honor.

This has been an exceptional academic year for the students, staff and school community. In January, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger toured Otay classrooms and met with parents and teachers to hear more about the school’s turnaround. Now, the CABE honor and a looming California Distinguished School Award have created a wave of excitement.

Principal Francisco J. Velasco and school staff members were praised for their hard work. Over the past five years, the students at Otay have made a 199 point increase on the Academic Performance Index. Currently, the school’s API is 772—only 28 points from qualifying as a coveted “800” school.

“We have been blessed by extremely talented and dedicated professionals at all levels,” Velasco said, in accepting the award at CABE’s 33rd annual conference. “We have received quite a few honors recently. And a number of dignitaries have been coming through our doors.”

Velasco said the Seal of Excellence reflects a shared success.

“It starts with the support of our Board of Education, which believes strongly in effective programs for English Learners,” Velasco said. “It also illustrates the commitment of our Superintendent to a decentralized administration, which means trusting us at the site level to come up with solutions that fit our unique challenges and holding us accountable as the decision-makers for our results.

“And what school’s success is possible without empowered parents? We have developed a cadre of informed, involved, and supportive parents—the kind of parents who do not hesitate to question the governor directly about clarifying his position in regard to bilingual education as occurred during his recent visit to our school.”

More than 90% of the school’s 605 students are Latino and more than two-thirds are English Learners. Otay staff members embrace the diversity and have instilled a school culture where teachers believe, “They can. Anyone can.”

Velasco said the Seal of Excellence belongs to his students.

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