Diamond View Middle School earns 2024 California Distinguished School honor

Pretty heady stuff — a small middle school in Susanville earns honors as a 2024 Distinguished School from the California Department of Education.

“Isn’t it exciting — a Distinguished School Award,” said DeDe Heimbigner, Diamond View’s principal. “Diamond View is working hard, and I think that’s the message we want people to hear. We are really growing, and our students are really awesome. I think middle schoolers don’t always get the best rap. They’re really great kids and we’re starting to see it now. All the hard work we’ve put in is starting to show.”

Heimbigner said Diamond View won the award for showing growth in its English and math scores,, but the improvement in its Student Discipline Dashboard probably made the biggest contribution.

“We’ve reduced our suspensions significantly with all the new things we’re trying, Hemibigner said. “We’re doing a bunch of interventions for behavior to try to reduce suspensions for behavior, and I think that’s what really triggered the award.”

In 2022 the school had a 12 percent suspension rate and that dropped to 10 percent in 2023. That means 10 students out of every 100 were suspended for at least one day last year.

“That (the 2 percent decline) doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is,” Heimbigner said. “And that doesn’t include how many tines a student is suspended. It’s 10 kids, but sometimes a student might be suspended two or three times for a kid who’s really struggling.

“We’ve worked a lot on our school culture, and we’ve created a whole new student discipline model” Heimbigner said. “Our focus has changed to keeping kids in school rather than sending them home. I think that’s made a difference.”

The old punitive program was based on detentions, demerits, and suspensions. The new program focuses on social/emotional learning.

“We had a leadership team come together — NorCal Educational Leadership,” Heimbigner said. “We were part of a group, and we dissected our whole discipline plan … where we’re teaching good behavior, positive mindset and positive skills. We’ve also brought in a house system for kids to feel more school connectiveness. Our goal was to create a culture of belonging and school connectiveness … Our suspension rate this year is much lower than it was at this time last year. The school culture feels really good here right now.”

Statement from Superintendent of Public Instruction
According to a statement from Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, it was recently announced that 293 middle schools and high schools have been selected for the prestigious 2024 California Distinguished Schools Program, California’s school recognition program that recognizes two categories of exceptional schools: those closing the achievement gap and those demonstrating exceptional student performance.

Since its inception in 1985, the California Distinguished Schools Award remains one of the state’s most important ways to celebrate exceptional schools, districts, teachers, and classified employees for their innovation, talent, and success in supporting students.

The exceptional middle and high schools recognized this year are illustrative of the persistence and promise of California’s students, educators, and schools. To select California Distinguished Schools, the California Department of Education uses multiple measures to identify eligible schools based on their performance on the state indicators as specified on the California School Dashboard.

Specifically, schools were selected by analyzing data reported through the 2023 Dashboard, with a focus on demonstrating excellence and growth in academic achievement and ensuring a positive school climate.

Schools are recognized for exceptional student performance based on achieving exemplary performance in English Language Arts and math, reducing suspensions, and demonstrating high graduation rates (high schools only).

Schools recognized for closing the achievement gap enroll at least 40 percent of their students from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds and, in addition to demonstrating exemplary overall performance in ELA and math, achieve accelerated academic growth for one or more historically underserved student groups.

“It is my pleasure to honor and recognize these 293 secondary schools for their efforts to provide exemplary public education to all students. Excellent middle schools and high schools play a critical role in the life outcomes of our young people,” Thurmond said. “This year’s California Distinguished Schools celebration provides us with an opportunity to recognize the hard work of our secondary educators and school staff who help our young adults discover passions and access college- and career-ready experiences that will propel them through life.”

The 2024 California Distinguished Schools, along with the 2023 National Blue Ribbon Schools, 2023 Civic Learning Award Schools, and 2023 and 2024 California Exemplary Dual Enrollment Award Schools, will be recognized at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim on May 3, 2024.

For more information, visit the CDE California Distinguished Schools Program web page.