The Fontana Unified School District earned high honors from the state during the month of April.

April was an award-winning month for the Fontana Unified School District as administrators and teachers celebrated three high honors which were received from the state.

These honors included:

----- FUSD WAS designated as a 2021 Model School Attendance Review Board (SARB) winner in California, recognizing the district’s efforts to reach disengaged students during the COVID-19 pandemic and connect families with resources and support.

“This honor is a testament to the dedication of our district, our school sites and our SARB, who work tirelessly to support our families using a student-first, community-driven approach," said Jose Bárzaga, the FUSD's director of child welfare and attendance. "I am proud of our efforts and thrilled to see the positive impact they have on our students.”

Fontana's SARB consists of members from the district’s offices of Child Welfare and Attendance, Multi-Tiered System of Supports, and Special Services, as well as the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s and Public Defender’s offices.

The SARB takes a restorative approach to student disengagement, with panel members drawing on their expertise and personal experience to identify concerns, connect families with the necessary resources, and follow up with continued support to encourage lasting re-engagement.

Over the last year, the SARB focused on how to best meet students’ needs during distance learning, working to connect families with resources and support services to address connectivity issues, encourage mental health and wellness, support virtual attendance for students with unique needs and more.

The SARB also set out to provide additional support for students with housing instability, who often struggled to engage in distance learning, and worked with the After School Education and Safety (ASES) Program to create Learning Centers across the district.

These centers have provided unhoused students with an on-campus, in-person space to engage in distance learning while being supported by paraprofessional staff. The centers have also offered social-emotional support and wellness activities for students, including community building circles and mindful movements, as well as three full meals -- breakfast, lunch and dinner.

----- ALSO, SUMMIT HIGH SCHOOL was named a 2021 California Distinguished School, celebrating its success in boosting student achievement, attaining strong graduation rates and fostering college and career readiness.

The California Distinguished School award is the state’s top honor for high-achieving schools.

“I am overjoyed that Summit High School has earned its first-ever California Distinguished School award, and I am exceptionally proud of all our teachers and staff,” Principal Renee Castanon said. “This honor would not have been possible without their unparalleled dedication to serving our students and supporting them as they pursue their personal and academic goals.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) identified and awarded eligible schools based on performance and progress on state indicators specified on the California School Dashboard, the state’s accountability and continuous improvement system. Indicators include test scores, suspension rates, and conditions and climate.

Castanon said Summit High School fosters a culture of positivity and high achievement, providing support and encouragement to students even before they step on campus. Incoming freshmen are equipped for success through offerings like Summer Bridge and Link Crew, which help ease the transition to high school through peer mentorship, social-emotional support and intervention.

Summit’s Golden Bell Award-winning Link Crew program calls on juniors and seniors to serve as mentors to incoming freshmen, providing a variety of academic and social support services to help struggling ninth-graders.

The school also fosters lasting student achievement with the support of its robust counseling department, which helps students develop and refine individualized four-year plans, outlining their path to graduation. Counselors also support Summit’s college-going culture by providing guidance on the college application process and arranging college visits and financial aid workshops.

Students also benefit from a comprehensive Advanced Placement (AP) program, featuring 24 courses in which they have the opportunity to gain college credit, and an Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program that aims to increase the college-going rate to four-year universities and equips students with tools for academic and professional success.

Summit’s comprehensive approach to student achievement and wealth of intervention strategies have also yielded a graduation rate above 94 percent, maintained from 2016-17 through 2018-19 -- the most recent year of data available on the California School Dashboard.

Additionally, Summit promotes career readiness through a robust career technical education (CTE) program. Students gain valuable hands-on experience in pathways such as mechatronics, ethical hacking, games and simulation, cyber forensics, international business, film and video production, multimedia design and more.

----- IN ADDITION, Sequoia Middle School was recognized in the 2021 California Schools to Watch program, celebrating its continued success in boosting student achievement, creating a positive campus culture, bridging the technology gap and reducing suspensions.

Sequoia is among 31 high-performing California middle schools to be honored this year. First designated as a School to Watch in 2018, Sequoia was re-evaluated to retain the designation -- a process that occurs every three years.

“We believe that this distinction was important in 2018, but it’s something that our school community needed even more now, after a year of challenges, because it affirms all the amazing things we’re doing,” Sequoia Middle School Principal Antonio Viramontes said. “This designation is a testament to the efforts of our teachers and staff, in and out of the classroom, as well as the positive impact of our programs and resources on our school community.”

Sequoia takes a comprehensive approach to student success, offering a variety of programs and services that foster college and career readiness, provide intervention and social-emotional support, and strengthen digital literacy.

Sequoia’s Renaissance club, along with award-winning counseling team, the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) discipline system, and mentoring programs like Where Everybody Belongs (WEB), helped the school reduce its suspension rate from 11.9 percent in the 2011-12 school year to an average of 3.8 percent over the last four years.

The school also was recognized by the California PBIS Coalition as a gold medal school in 2019 for its work in team-building activities, reviewing classroom expectations and creating positive support structures.

Sequoia has worked to narrow the achievement gap and prepare students for the rigor of high school and college through its AVID program. Its success in implementing AVID strategies schoolwide -- including focus notes, interactive notebooks, collaborative study groups, and more -- helped secure Sequoia’s status as an AVID National Demonstration School.

Increasing access to technology and bolstering digital literacy have also been key efforts at Sequoia, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a yearlong shift to distance learning. Sequoia educators made the most of the opportunity to master digital learning tools, learn to best connect with their students through Microsoft Teams, use OneNote to support AVID instruction and more.

The efforts to develop robust technology-driven instructional practices, supported by FUSD's fast-tracked 1:1 device initiative, also earned Sequoia Middle School a designation as a 2020-21 U.S. Showcase Incubator School by Microsoft.

The Schools to Watch program is sponsored by the California Department of Education, California League of Schools and the California Middle Grades Alliance, in association with the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform.

FUSD boasts three Schools to Watch designations; Southridge Tech and Wayne Ruble middle schools were honored in 2019 for bridging the technology gap, boosting student achievement and improving campus culture.

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