The Coast News Group
Aviara Oaks Elementary School Principal Jimmy Hines, back middle, and students from left, Elise Lu, Evalyn Li, Mia Westerlund, Christopher Lee, Zaeden Van Es, Natalie Heon, Henry Hill, and Kenzi Wiens, show off their Blue Ribbon Award and flag on Nov. 22. The school was named a winner of the prestigious award earlier this school year. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Blue Ribbon Award pinned upon Aviara Oaks Elementary

CARLSBAD — Blue, not purple, may just be the preferred color at Aviara Oaks Elementary School.

The reason is the school was recognized in September as one of 362 schools across the country, and one of just 30 in California, as a recipient of the prestigious Blue Ribbon Award. The award is based on Aviara Oaks’ consistency and improvement in math, English arts, second language learners and socio-economic disadvantage and special education students, Principal Jimmy Hines said.

He said more than 24% of students fall under the socio-economic disadvantage classification. In addition, other metrics, such as state tests, culture and teacher training and preparation, are included in the process, Carlsbad Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Ben Churchill said.

“It’s a great honor and it is something schools can be proud of,” he said. “They were able to point to a really outstanding teaching faculty. They collaborate really well and have a really strong culture on campus.”

Churchill, Hines and several others, traveled to Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14 and Nov. 15 to national ceremony to accept the award, which is presented by the U.S. Department of Education.

On Nov. 22, Aviara Oaks held an assembly for staff and students to show off the plaque and flag presented to the school, along with celebrating a milestone. It’s the second major award received by the school, as it was also tapped as a California Distinguish School over the past several years.

Schools, though, do not solicit the Blue Ribbon Award, Hines said, as the U.S. DOE invites schools to apply.

“There are over 89,000 public elementary schools across the nation,” Hines said. “It’s less than one-tenth than 1%, so it’s special.”

Four years ago, Hines was named principal at Aviara Oaks. One of his first actions was to review the curriculum and data points to determine where the school could improve.

The results showed math and English arts were target subjects, so he and the staff built out a roadmap to improve those areas, while building upon strong points already established.

The buy-in from staff was important for the students, he said, adding the goal was never to win awards, but rather to ensure a high-quality education for all students. The awards, he said, are byproducts of a collaborative core of teachers and others to give students the best chance at success.

And they did.

“My staff here did that famously and validated all the work they’ve doing through that application process,” Hines said. “They’re professional and student first. They’re collaborative … and they really take the time to talk about their work. I couldn’t be happier with the talent we have here.”

For Churchill, he said it is another feather in the cap for the district, noting Aviara Oaks is the second school to receive the Blue Ribbon Award during his tenure. Pacific Rim Elementary School was named a winner in 2016.

As the list steadily grows for Carlsbad Unified, Churchill said he believes all the schools are capable of reaching the same heights.

“We were thrilled for them, the same we were for Pac Rim,” he added. “I can’t wait to celebrate other schools in future years. I’m confident that we will have more schools achieve the Blue Ribbon Award.”