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Santa Monica's Olympic High School Gets Top Honor from State

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By Lookout Staff

February 28, 2014 -- Santa Monica's Olympic High School, which helps students struggling to graduate, received top honors from State officials Thursday.

Tom Torlakson, California's Superintendent of Public Instruction, notified the school's administrators that, once again, Olympic High was selected as a Model Continuation High School, officials said.

In a letter to Olympic High's principal, Janie Gates, Torlakson wrote, “The innovative programs at your school demonstrate an enduring commitment to provide young people with the educational options and support services they need to successfully complete high school.”

Olympic High School is attended by about 120 students, most of whom have, for some reason or another, come up short with the credits necessary to graduate from one of Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District's two other high schools.

“Continuation high schools increase the chances for vulnerable, at-risk students to complete their education while better preparing them for employment and self-sufficiency,” Torlakson wrote.

“Students who find traditional high schools are not meeting their individual needs or situations are often more successful with the flexible educational environment offered these campuses,” he wrote.

Many of the students at Olympic have struggled with obstacles that have interfered with their normal studies.

In an interview with The Lookout in 2012, Gates said, “Maybe our students need a flexible schedule because their afternoon job helps buy the family groceries. Maybe there are learning disabilities. Maybe there are behavioral issues that can’t be dealt with in a traditional school setting. Our campus is very calm.” (“Olympic High School’s Alternative Approach Helps Students Succeed,” May 7, 2012)

It was under Gates' leadership that Olympic High saw its Academic Performance Index triple. She also initiated the process to get the school accredited with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, one of the prerequisites for being named a Model Continuation High School.

Despite opening in 1966, the school had not gotten accredited until 2010. A year later, it was named a Model Continuation High School for the first time.

A Model Continuation High School must also “demonstrate exemplary program effectiveness in school management, curriculum, instructional strategies, educational climate, guidance and counseling,” according to District officials.

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