A Two Time National Blue Ribbon Winner AND Now a Two Time California Distinguished School Winner


Mrs. Paula Petruschin, Mrs. Anna Lovato, Assistant Principal Mrs. Barbara Caballero, Mickey Mouse, Principal Mrs. Valerie Hatcher, Superintendent Dr. Ron Williams, and Mr. Matthew O’Rane pose for a picture at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim where the California School Recognition Program Awards Ceremony was held.

Jeanine Martinez and Shiloh Emanuel

On April 5, 2019, Mrs, Lovato, Mr. O’Rane, Mrs. Petruschin, Mrs. Caballero, Mrs. Hatcher, and  Superintendent Dr. Ron Williams represented University Preparatory at the 2019 California School Recognition program Awards Ceremony.

According to the California Department of Education, 162 middle and high schools out of the thousands in California were honored at the Awards Ceremony. Eleven schools from San Bernardino County were awarded the distinguished school title, two of them from the High Desert and of those two, only one was from the Victor Valley Union High School District.

In order to qualify to apply for the Distinguished School Program, schools must meet rigorous requirements. According to Ms. Hatcher, “The program looks at the test scores of the CAASPP test, and if they are above the state average then that school qualifies.” Schools must also have exemplary and quality educational programs.

Without the dedication of staff members like Mrs. Lovato, Mr. O’Rane, Mrs. Petruschin, and Mrs. Caballero, the application for the California Distinguished Schools would never have been submitted. The the week prior to the application due date of Monday, February 11, 2019, they worked diligently together in the Principal’s Conference Room to complete it.

“We worked over the course of a few days in the office filling out the application. It had to focus on a model program and so- something that our school is known for doing- we focused on our Senior Transitions course because we are the only school in the High Desert that actually offers that course,” stated Mrs. Lovato. She also related the amount of time and focus she and Mrs. Petruschin spent working on the application. “We worked on it two full school days, and we also worked on it a few hours after school. In about the course of two weeks, we got it done.”

At the event, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Thurmond, shared his experiences with education, “If you believe that education can carry you, it will.” At the tender age of 6, Thurmond’s mother passed away from cancer, and that left a big impact on his life. “I could have ended up in state prison, but I ended up state superintendent of education.” Not letting anything bring him down, Thurmond continued his life being an advocate for education. At the event, he expressed his plans for the future of California’s educational system, stating, “If we are not intentional about… STEAM education…we will not be prepared for the jobs of tomorrow. We are going to educate, and not incarcerate our kids.”

Our staff who attended were thrilled to be receiving the distinguished school title on behalf of the school. When asked how she felt about the experience, Mrs. Lovato enthusiastically replied, “It was really exciting to get the opportunity to go to the event, especially to see all of these other schools in California and see how they are doing and how we compare to them.”

Mrs. Hatcher had a similar outlook on the situation saying, “It’s always an honor to be recognized by the state of California in terms of our achievement so it was definitely a good feeling.” While this experience may have been entirely new for some teachers, like Mrs. Lovato, Mrs. Hatcher has had the privilege of being able to accept this award twice, the first time in 2009. Also, due to testing system changes, the Distinguished School Award was temporarily called the Golden Ribbon Award, which was awarded to University Preparatory School in 2015.

As University Preparatory has continued to grow and gain the respect it deserves, it has become a school of great prestige. But this has not happened in a vacuum. Mrs. Hatcher attributes its success to the great variety of stakeholders who have aided in its success throughout the years. “I would like to thank all of the students, the staff, the parents, and everyone that works so hard to make University Prep a special place.” Building on these relationships and creating a positive social and academic environment for the students and school are a top priority. Moving forward, Mrs. Hatcher adds, “The goal for the future is to win more awards.”