Malibu High receives

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distinguished school awardn Out of more than 2,000 schools, only 78 middle and 52 high schools were selected statewide for the award.

By Ryan O’Quinn

Special to The Malibu Times

Malibu High School has made the grade. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell announced last week that Malibu High has been selected as a 2003 California Distinguished School. The highly sought-after award identifies and honors the state’s most exemplary public schools.

“We should all be extremely proud of ourselves and our community,” said Malibu High School Principal Mike Matthews. “It’s a wonderful recognition of the outstanding teachers, staff and students.”

There are 2,228 middle and high schools in the state and less than 400 were eligible to apply for the award based on the Academic Performance Index. Of those, only 78 middle schools and 52 high schools were selected statewide.

“These schools have earned high marks in providing a strong, motivating, and dynamic platform that allows all students to contribute and prosper,” O’Connell said. “These remarkable schools challenge the ordinary and embrace the extraordinary.”

Each of the schools that applied for the honor underwent a rigorous screening process that was conducted by the California Department of Education, the California County Superintendents of Schools Educational Services Association and educators from around the state. The selection process included several phases of testing, reviews and an onsite evaluation. Keith Myatt, chairman of the assessment team that visited Malibu, said, “Malibu High School is a school with a pioneer spirit … that is willing to try new things that can help all students succeed.”

The award is not solely based on academics, but evaluates criteria that include the surrounding community as well. One of the attributes that finalists are judged on is the level of public confidence in the school, and family and community involvement.

“Schools are one of the measures of the community,” said city Councilmember Jeff Jennings, former chairman of an advisory committee to the school board. “Much of the credit goes to Mike [Matthews] and his staff.”

Malibu Mayor Ken Kearsley has represented the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) at an awards ceremony in the past.

“It’s not a PR thing. You have to meet specific criteria,” Kearsley said. “It’s about improvement and getting everybody involved in this.”

Kearsley recounted the story of a family that recently called him prior to transplanting to Malibu from the East Coast. “They had done their homework and knew exactly what they wanted,” Kearsley said. “They chose Malibu, not necessarily for the scenic beauty, but for the SMMUSD school system; specifically Malibu High.”

The school will maintain the distinction for four years and will receive a plaque and a special flag to be displayed on campus. The state superintendent and the president of the State Board of Education will recognize Malibu High School, along with other 2003 California Distinguished School honorees, at an awards banquet on May 16 at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim.