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 Ramona Unified School District Recognized with Top Statewide Educational Honor

The Ramona Unified School District has been chosen as one of 56 recipients of the state’s leading educational honor, the Golden Bell Award. The Golden Bell Award, now in its 37th year, is sponsored by the California School Boards Association. The award recognized public school programs that are innovative and sustainable, make a demonstrated difference for students and focus on meeting the needs of all public school students. Ramona Unified School District will receive its award at a recognition ceremony to be held on Saturday, December 3, from 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. at CSBA’s Annual Education Conference and Trade Show in San Francisco at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis.

This Golden Bell award recognizes Ramona High School teacher Gloria Quinn and her program, Eco-Leaders Save the World, which focuses on the school’s sustainable, renewable energy and resource-efficiency. Initiated in 2013, this model food recovery effort began with a partnership agreement between the Ramona Unified School District’s Special Education Functional Skills Program and the County of San Diego, which donated an Earth Tub and provided composting experts to help establish the program and provide training and operational support. The program follows the Environmental Protection Agency’s hierarchy of source reduction, food donation, and animal feed methods employed to maximize community and environmental value.

All eight of the district’s school kitchens participate and have been diverting between 40 and 70 pounds of edible food or compostable scraps on a daily basis. Food suitable for donation is frozen and collected weekly by a local pantry, the Ramona Food and Clothes Closet. This food is available to the underserved in the community, and is also distributed to a partner agency that provides nutrition services and reduces hunger.

As of April 2016, the program had diverted more than 13 tons of lunch scraps and landscape remnants from the landfill. This breaks down to: 8,782 pounds of ready to eat nutritious meals for the hungry in the Ramona community; 4,706 pounds fed to animals in the Agriculture program of Ramona High School; 7,096 pounds composted; and 4,028 pounds in source reduction.

Compost is utilized in the students’ County Certified Culinary Garden which is adjacent to the classroom. Students participate in all aspects of planning, growing, and harvesting. The hands-on experience continues in the special needs classroom kitchen where students collaborate, communicate, and create delicious and nutritious meals. Academic subjects are brought to life and connected to the community while developing independent living skills, and purpose.

Superintendent, Dr. Anne Staffieri remarked, “This program is unique, innovative, and the first of its kind in Southern California. We are very appreciative of Mrs. Quinn and her leadership which makes a difference in the lives of our students, empowering them through real world opportunities for environmental stewardship.”

Experts from school district and county offices of education made up the 16-member judging panel that reviewed the written entries made the initial recommendations for the awards. On-site validators assessed the programs in action. This year’s award is presented to school districts and county offices of education helping students achieve through after-school programs, mentoring, instructional interventions, use of data and other innovations.

“California’s K-12 public schools continue to produce some of the nation’s best and brightest students, and our Golden Bell recipients are a reflection of that excellence as well as the spirit of innovation which is so characteristic of this state,” said CSBA CEO and Executive Director Vernon M. Billy. “The Golden Bell Awards recognize the quality and the determination of school leaders from across California in meeting the needs of California’s students through award-winning programs and services.”

CSBA is a non-profit education association representing the elected officials who govern public school districts and county offices of education. With a membership of nearly 1,000 educational agencies statewide, CSBA brings together school governing boards and district and county office administrators to advocate for effective policies that advance the education and well-being of the state’s more than 6 million school-age children.