YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Clinton Lauds 6 O.C. Schools for Excellence

Education: President credits teamwork for the success of secondary schools named as national Blue Ribbon Award winners in a speech to representatives at the White House.


WASHINGTON — Representatives from Santa Ana's Foothill High applauded politely Wednesday when President Clinton congratulated the school and 265 other secondary campuses for being selected this year's national Blue Ribbon School Award winners.

But the real celebration came long before Wednesday's ceremony, held in a rain-dampened tent on the South Lawn of the White House. It was the afternoon late last winter when Foothill Principal Dan Brooks announced the award over the school's public address system.

"You could hear the cheers echoing throughout the hallways from everybody," Brooks said. "The students, teachers, cafeteria workers, custodians and the secretaries were all equally excited."

Foothill joined three other Orange County high schools and two middle schools on the national honor roll announced Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Education. La Habra, Laguna Beach and Mission Viejo high schools made the list of Blue Ribbon schools, along with Los Alisos Intermediate School of Mission Viejo and Venado Middle School of Irvine.

Schools applying for the award were judged on such criteria as academic standards, student achievement, teacher quality, school leadership and parental involvement. Thirty-nine California schools were selected.

"The Blue Ribbon Awards are rooted in the belief that schools work only if everyone does his or her part," Clinton told the students, teachers and administrators gathered for the ceremony.

Brooks said the key to Foothill's selection was the way those three groups work together. Shared decision-making is a bottom-up management philosophy in which groups other than school administrators have a say in policies.

"Any time you get more people involved in decision-making, you're going to have decisions that people will buy into," Brooks said.

Assistant Principal Frank Southern, who did not attend the event, said the school also has strong support from parents and the community. Last year, various parent groups and booster clubs raised more than $200,000 to purchase new technology, paint the gymnasium, train staff, support athletic teams and the fine arts programs.

"Everyone pulls together for the betterment of the school," Southern said.

Duffy Clark, principal at Mission Viejo High School, believes his school impressed the selection committee with a strong mix of academics and extracurricular programs.

"The research is clear that kids who are involved in extracurricular activities are more successful than kids who aren't," he said. "They teach hard work, diligence, fortitude, cooperation and loyalty . . . virtues that are very important to this nation."

Los Alisos Principal Jerry Ray said his school scored high in technology. The 25-year-old school has been refitted with computer equipment that will give students a head start on coping with the work world of the 21st century, he said.

Ray said Los Alisos and other intermediate schools also were judged in an area that doesn't apply to high schools: how well they help students through the early teen years.

"Adolescence is a key time, and sometimes a horrific time, for kids," he said. "As a school leader, you try to make that transition positive."

The Blue Ribbon Schools program was established in 1982, honoring elementary schools in odd-numbered years and secondary schools in even years.


High Marks

Six Orange County schools selected as Blue Ribbon School Award winners were honored by President Clinton at a White House ceremony Wednesday. The schools were judged on criteria that included academic standards, student achievement, teacher quality, school leadership and parental involvement. Thirty-nine California schools won the award this year. Orange County winners:


Foothill High School in Santa Ana

La Habra High School

Laguna Beach High School

Mission Viejo High School

Los Alisos Intermediate School in Mission Viejo

Venado Middle School in Irvine

Los Angeles Times Articles