EVHS Receives First California Distinguished School Award

After nearly 19 years since its founding, EVHS receives its first ever Distinguished School Award.


Kyle Kleckner

California Distinguished School Award icon. The school earned its first Distinguished School award this year.

Jason Lin

On May 3, 2021, EVHS principal, Kyle Klecker, announced that EVHS is now a 2021 California Distinguished School. The award recognizes exceptional gains by schools in implementing the academic content and performance standards: specifically in language arts, mathematics, college and career readiness, graduation proportion, suspension rate, and English learner progress.

The California DS (Distinguished School) Program recognizes schools in alternate years and allows schools to apply every two years. EVHS’s distinguished school status is, therefore, due to a culmination of progress throughout the two pandemic school years. 

“This is the first time in the history of Evergreen Valley, in the twenty years since the school has been open, that we have been recognized as a California Distinguished School,” Mr. Kleckner said. “Certainly, the first time that a school gets that recognition feels very special. I think in this case, given the challenges that everyone has to work through for the past year with the pandemic, it feels extra special.”

Students, like Katherine Dimalanta, are also thrilled by these recent developments. To her, after a tough year of distance learning, it looks like the efforts of students and staff have paid off. 

“I think it definitely is special! We, as a community, have been through so much, and receiving this award is pretty uplifting. I know many students that struggle with their academics, whether they are A students, B students, and so on, but that just means our teachers are delivering as we are evolving,” Dimalanta said. “EV students exemplify courage and resilience, especially during COVID, and I think that we will definitely thrive for more after my class graduates!” 

School Performance Overview of Evergreen Valley High for 2019: https://www.caschooldashboard.org/reports/43694274330692/2019

Despite the relative ease of online learning, distance learning has generally hampered the quality of education that schools across California. Schools have often found it challenging to engage students in learning. However, EVHS’s diligence through these circumstances has not gone unnoticed. 

“I would certainly say that distance learning has not helped Evergreen Valley achieve this award. If anything it probably made it more difficult to achieve. Distance learning has been incredibly challenging for students and staff, and it is certainly not the ideal environment that anyone wants to run school in,” Mr. Kleckner admitted. “I really think that it is a testament to our students and staff’s perseverance that we continued making progress and received this recognition in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Mr. Kleckner states that he believed EVHS’s success comes from the relationships students have with the school. The more students feel connected to school, the more they are committed to learning. Furthermore, when teachers see their students want to learn, it is likely they feel more comfortable with teaching and thus teach better. This positive feedback provides a basis for any school community.

“One of the things that we focus on a lot is establishing relationships and connecting students to their classroom, to their teacher, to the school at large,” Mr. Kleckner explained. “So to me, the focus in developing relationships like through the advisory that we have done this year, through the ROAR lessons, and through ROAR itself has been a really big piece of why Evergreen received this recognition.”

Mrs. Bromberg, a counselor for students at EVHS, agrees that the community has provided an inspiring atmosphere of academic achievement.

“Ever since I became a part of EVHS, I have noticed an atmosphere of positive attitude and support,” Mrs. Bromberg remarked. “A huge focus is on teamwork and working together for a common goal, and EVHS earning this award shows that when everyone is invested and committed to making the school a better place, great things happen.”

Even in the virtual world of distance learning, school and student relationships have continued to play a large role in inspiring EVHS’s efforts to improve.

“Our staff, our students, our leadership program and ASB, and all of our student clubs have done a fantastic job transferring a lot of the great things about Evergreen into the virtual world,” Mr. Kleckner stated. “One of the amazing things about Evergreen is just the student life. The amount of things that are constantly going on, multiple times a day. There is always something for everyone.” 

The California Distinguished School award represents a human endeavor accomplished by a community of relationships. According to Mr. Klecker, much of the teacher and staff agrees that students have been instrumental to the success of EVHS.

“Students have such powerful voices and if we as the administration and as adults can support, amplify, and uplift our students’ voices, we can help them be changemakers not just at Evergreen but in the community as well,” Mr. Klecker said. “Our students really can change the world, and we want to empower our students to go out and do great things.”

As a member of the student leadership, Katherine also points to the multitude of resources that EVHS students have which allows them to excel. She states how amenities and ways to relax are important to maintaining a healthy academic life. 

“We have great on-campus resources and activities that students are able to use to relax and unwind, as they are taking a break from their academics. EV creates a safe, inclusive environment for all students to reach their full potential,” said Katherine.

Mrs. Yourman, a new English teacher at EVHS, expressed her sentiments about the recent successes. She feels that the innovative attitude about EVHS pushed it forward to get the award.

“When I was interviewing for the position, I talked about project-based learning and writing workshops– and creating projects with students. I know that that approach of student-run classrooms can be unconventional in high schools. And the fact that it was so well received showed me what the school valued: our students growing as people– not just performing well on tests,” Mrs. Yourman notes. “I was really happy that that was what they were looking for because I then knew that this was where I wanted to work.”

Mrs. Yourman also points out some of the unsung heroes of the EVHS faculty.

“I also want to bring up that it extends far beyond that (students, teachers, and admin). Case managers for students with individual education plans are working so hard so that individual needs are met and really bringing that equity piece…Custodians are working hard to keep our campus safe. Every single person is contributing to the community in a way that brought this moment about,” Mrs. Yourman said.

Despite EVHS’s monumental success in receiving the California Distinguished School award, Mr. Kleckner is adamant that the progress students have seen with EVHS will not stall. The reward represents a milestone, but not the end.

“This award is like a flashing beacon. It shows that when we work to change our practices to better serve students, that can actually work and lead to schoolwide change,” said Mr. Klecker. “We know that we still have students who need more support at Evergreen Valley. We must redouble our efforts and keep trying new things to improve education at Evergreen so that every student knows they belong and can be successful here.” 

Interestingly, students and staff alike agree that the award itself isn’t important, but rather what it truly means for the school. 

“Our goal has always been to build a more equitable campus community where students know they belong and can be successful here,” said Mr. Kleckner. “Our focus has been on reducing disproportionalities and inequities and working hard to graduate students who are fully prepared for college and career. So that is always what the work was about, not about the recognition, but about improving students’ lives.”

“I don’t think awards make a school ‘great’ or ‘better’ than other schools. But it does reflect something that the school should be recognized for. Sometimes, awards don’t need to be given in order for people to feel rewarded,” said Katherine. “I know many efforts behind the scenes, like admin, clubs, leadership, etc are often unaccounted for. We should not be striving for nothing less than safe, fun, and inclusive environments for students every year.” 

As a teacher, Mrs. Yourman also expressed concern regarding schools focusing on awards. It builds an incentive to strive for better test scores instead of providing for the well-being of students. She believes that EVHS should strive to motivate students to love learning and feel welcome in school instead.

“I think if a school focuses its efforts on the award then they are inadvertently focusing their efforts on testing. Testing does provide data of progress, but we must also keep our eye on other signs of progress,” said Mrs. Yourman. “What skills are students going to take out of our classrooms and use throughout their lives? What are students motivated to read about and to write about? What happens, ironically, is that when students are engaged and driving their learning, test scores do ultimately go up.” 

As the 2020-2021 school year draws to a close, questions about school reopenings have become much more apparent. Not just freshmen, but also sophomores must be introduced and familiarized with the EVHS campus.

“This is going to really be a historic reopening in August. Usually every school year 25% of the campus is new to a high school, but this year it really is going to be half because this year’s freshman will have not had many opportunities to set foot on campus or do in-person events,” Mr. Kleckner stated.

However, now that EVHS is a Distinguished School, the future seems much more optimistic. Students, teachers, administration, and staff alike are eager to welcome everyone back to school for another year of quality education. 

“It has been one heck of a year! But as our time in the pandemic is simmering down, please take the time to thank yourself for being the amazing individual you are!” exclaimed Dimalanta. “You did that! To CO 2021, I am so proud of each and every one of you, regardless of future plans; you will become successful through your own paths!”