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SAHS continues its winning ways – podcast

by Mick Rhodes | mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

Claremont’s San Antonio High School was recently named one of 36 in California recognized as model continuation high schools for 2022.

The nonprofit California Continuation Education Association Plus makes the award every three years, and this is the fourth consecutive model school prize for SAHS. It also won in 2012, 2015 and 2018.

This is the second time in a just five months SAHS has been recognized as a top continuation school. In November it, along with Claremont Unified School District cohorts Condit, Oakmont and Sycamore elementary schools, won the Apple Distinguished School Award, one of only 690 from 36 countries around the globe, and the only continuation school in the world to be honored with the coveted distinction.

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“You know what? I’m really proud of our school,” said Assistant Principal Jessica Ly on the occasion of San Antonio High’s latest accolade. “Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it in the day-to-day, when we’re justo trying to tackle everything and put out fires, but when we kind of stand back and recognize the things that we have been doing for our school, I feel really proud that we can continue to meet those standards and support our students in a unique setting.”

California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond made the announcement: “These model schools provide invaluable resources and academic opportunities to our high-needs students, who often are dealing with difficult life events,” he said. “Students reap the benefits of social and emotional learning, mentorship programs, student wellness, and restorative justice practices, among other exemplary methods. The efforts of teachers and administrators at our Model Continuation High Schools provide students with the social support, goal-setting, and coping skills that they need to succeed in the academic setting and in their lives after high school.”

As the school year progresses, San Antonio’s enrollment typically swells. It had about 30 students at the outset this year, but with additional transfers that number is now about 65. Its unique model, with just a few dozen students all looking for a second chance at high school, helps make it a particularly close-knit campus, Ly said.

“Not that they’re actively thinking about it, but I think on the outside we’re still fighting that stigma like, ‘Oh, they’re just a continuation school,’” she added.

Ly said her experience at SAHS — as a teacher for six years and now an administrator — has shown her San Antonio students have different talents than mainstream students might have. Yes, they often arrive at the school for academic reasons, but oftentimes they find their groove there and turn their grades, and self-esteem, around.

“And so when the students here feel like they’re valued and they’re celebrated and they develop these positive relationships with their peers and their teachers, then they start to flourish,” she said. “And they’re really proud.”

Ly had more high praise for San Antonio’s teachers.

“I just want to make sure I really shout-out the teachers here; if we ask any of our students, ‘What do you love about San Antonio High School?’ a majority of the time they answer that the staff really, really cares about [them],” she said. “And I think that is one of the biggest factors that makes us a model continuation school. These relationships allow these students to open up their minds if they were closed up before, and really want to perform.”

California has more than 430 continuation high schools, serving nearly 78,000 students ages 16 to 18 who are at risk of not completing their education. The 36 continuation schools were selected after a comprehensive application process, detailed narrative statements, and the use of assessment tools and data to support continuous improvement. The process included a peer review panel and onsite visit.

“We have this saying: a lot students cry when they have to come to San Antonio, and they cry when they have to leave for whatever reason,” Ly said. “A lot of time they’re like, ‘I’d rather stay here than to go to CHS.’ And no shame to CHS, obviously, but I just think they just feel like they’re more seen here, and so they value the school just as much as [we] treasure them.”

San Antonio High will be recognized at the CCEA Plus 2022 State Conference May 5-8 at the Renaissance Long Beach Hotel in Long Beach.

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