Monterey Hills Elementary School Recognized for Pivotal Practices

This honor replaces the previous California Distinguished Schools Program and recognizes schools and districts that implemented an innovative practice during the 2020-2021 school year.

PHOTO: South News | Monterey Hills School

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State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond recently announced winners of the newly created 2022 California Pivotal Practice (CAPP) Award Program. This honor replaces the previous California Distinguished Schools Program and recognizes schools and districts that implemented an innovative practice during the 2020-2021 school year, when California required schools to offer distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m incredibly proud of these schools and districts for their creativity, dedication, and innovation in the face of adversity,” Thurmond said. “These schools led incredible efforts to engage students, distribute technology, provide meals, and support the social and emotional well-being of students during an incredibly difficult time for schools and families.”

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South Pasadena Unified’s Monterey Hills Elementary School is among 727 schools being honored for their demonstrated efforts to support students in four target areas—student engagement, distribution of technology, nutrition services, social-emotional well-being.

“I’m so happy to celebrate with our faculty, staff, and community as each group has played an important role in keeping our students engaged and connected,” said Superintendent Geoff Yantz. “Offering program creativity and support during such a challenging time made all the difference.”

Prior to the 2020-21 school year beginning, SPUSD’s administrators problem-solved during leadership meetings. The team developed the idea of weekly virtual assemblies to help build school community and student engagement and improve social-emotional health. Teams produced Friday assemblies at each elementary school. At Monterey Hills, the assemblies also focused on building knowledge about various cultures, diversity, inclusion/exposure, and activism.

“My hope was that the video assemblies would serve as a vehicle for greater student engagement as the students learned about their own culture and those of their classmates,” said Principal Dr. Laurie Narro. “The actual ‘award’ has come in the form of classroom teachers letting me know the impact on their instruction or students asking me if they can provide an entry about their own culture.”

Each month a theme was selected; for example, MHS kicked off the year with the 30th Anniversary of American Disability Act. The rest of the year highlighted various cultural groups. Teachers submitted work from individual students or their entire class to illustrate their learning. In addition to the assembly, teachers included lessons in class that highlighted various cultures or the ideas of inclusion and civic awareness. Students learned and performed poetry, song, music and dance from various cultures, representing what they learned at school.

Students also presented language lessons, dances, traditional clothing and recipes from their own cultures to share with the larger school community. Parents helped with the filming, submitting segments from home, and editing class projects. MHS staff participated in the same way, teaching sign language or offering a Spanish lesson; sharing recipes; reciting the words of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech; doing a read-aloud to match the month’s theme. The selections for entries in the assemblies helped build critical social-emotional skills: understanding, empathy and advocacy.

CAPP Award winners completed an online application highlighting an innovative practice in one of the four target areas that was implemented during the 2020-21 school year. See the complete list of 2022 CAPP School Awardees on the CDE website.

About South Pasadena Unified School District
Established in 1886, the South Pasadena Unified School District (SPUSD) serves approximately 4,800 students within five schools including three elementary schools, one middle school and one comprehensive high school in South Pasadena, California.  Nestled in the West San Gabriel Valley, SPUSD has earned a reputation for providing high quality public education, attracting families who value challenging academic programs and outstanding teachers. Consistently recognized for superior performance, SPUSD students earn honors at the local, state and national level.  The District draws vital support from parents and community members through the South Pasadena Educational Foundation, local PTAs and booster clubs.

For more information, contact: South Pasadena Unified School District, Office of the Superintendent,