Educational programs from Orange County honored with 2023 Golden Bell Awards

CSBA Golden Bell Awards logo

The Orange County Department of Education and several local school districts have been honored with prestigious Golden Bell Awards for innovative educational programs that give students access to cutting-edge technology tools as they explore potential careers, bridge opportunity gaps and receive essential mental health counseling services. 

The California School Boards Association’s Golden Bell Awards have been around for 44 years now, promoting excellence in education by highlighting outstanding programs and governance practices. This year, the program received and evaluated more than 230 award entries in 21 categories.

Experts from school districts and county offices of education comprised the 49-member judging panel, and 51 delegates and board members from across the state validated the winning submissions either in-person or virtually. The association unveiled its full list of Golden Bell Award recipients this week, in anticipation of the reception and ceremony which is scheduled to take place on Nov. 30 at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square.

Here are the winning entries from Orange County by category — those are in blue — with descriptions lifted from each respective school district’s website. 

Career Technical Education

Capistrano Unified School District’s Career Technical Education (CTE) Program
Capistrano Unified School District and College and Career Advantage (CCA)

CUSD CTE program wins Golden Bell Award

College and Career Advantage, in partnership with the Capistrano Unified School District, introduced CTE labs in all 33 elementary schools across the district. These labs are complemented by elementary educators who deliver CTE-infused core content lessons in subjects like mathematics, science, social studies and English.

What sets these labs apart is their seamless integration of cutting-edge technology tools, including 3D printers, Cricut cutters, Marty the Robot, and an array of other resources, directly into the core academic curriculum. This integration serves a dual purpose: introducing students to the world of CTE tools and igniting their passion for the broader CTE curriculum awaiting them in middle and high school.

Closing the Opportunity Gap

Graduation Coach Program
Newport-Mesa Unified School District

Newport-Mesa Unified School District admin interns Kristen Kowalczyk Rivas and Thao Nguyen-Kung

Developed in 2021 to improve learning gaps, the Graduation Coach Program utilizes a six-step process led by administrative interns at secondary schools to assist more students in graduating high school with multiple post-secondary options.

They meet with each student to determine causes of that student’s struggles, then provide support and resources to overcome those challenges and become successful in their education. Each graduation coach works with 150 to 180 students. Last year, of the seniors who participated in the program, more than 98 percent graduated from high school.

Curriculum and Instruction

West Orange Elementary School’s Mathematics Academy
Orange Unified School District

West Orange Elementary

West Orange Elementary School’s vision aligns with developing programs that address excellence in academics and leadership. Their school-wide focus and the systems they have developed and implemented have laid the foundation for their students to excel in mathematics.

The impact on students is not merely on academics but on mindset. The goal at West Orange has been to ensure that students not only learn the necessary math skills but also develop the tenacity and determination to tackle difficult problems.

For the 2022-2023 school year, 58 percent of students school-wide met and exceeded standards in mathematics, an 11 percent increase in math performance from the 2021-22 school year.

English Learners/Biliteracy

Dual Language Immersion Academy
Anaheim Elementary School District

AESD Mandarin Dual Language Immersion Program

The Dual Language Immersion Academy program is offered at each school site. It’s an opportunity for students to embark on a remarkable journey of language learning and cultural enrichment.

The program encompasses three languages, including Spanish, Mandarin and Korean. The program aims to empower students to think, listen, speak, read and write with a high level of proficiency in both English and their partner language. This fluency opens doors to a world of opportunities.

AESD students have not only become proficient in multiple languages but also achieve academic excellence by meeting or exceeding grade level standards in both languages across all subject areas.

Innovation in a Time of Crises

Crisis Response Network
Orange County Department of Education

OCDE Crisis Response Network

Since 2008, the Orange County Department of Education’s Crisis Response Network has offered support to school communities experiencing traumatic events.

Under the guidance of OCDE’s Integrated Supports and Services unit, the Crisis Response Network provides assistance to Orange County’s 29 school districts, as well as private, charter and faith-based campuses during emergencies, including substance overdoses, grief and loss, natural disasters, and other crises.

The team customizes training programs to meet the specific and immediate requirements of the community. Simultaneously, they work on empowering districts to create their own well-rounded crisis response plans rooted in evidence-based practices. This includes pre-incident and crisis management training to both Orange County schools and community-based personnel at no cost. 

Social/Emotional Health/Wellness

ASPIRE System of Care
Garden Grove Unified School District

GGUSD’s ASPIRE Social Work Program earns Golden Bell Award

The ASPIRE System of Care is a three-tiered innovative approach to school-based mental health counseling that has made a transformative impact on the mental health needs of students in GGUSD.

The ASPIRE system of care fosters an environment of support at school through the effective implementation of school-based counseling that helps students thrive academically, emotionally and socially.

Thanks to the Board’s commitment, the ASPIRE system grew from one social worker and six interns in 2017 to 22 school social workers, 30 mental health specialists, and 65 mental health interns by 2022-23, a 254 percent increase in district-employed social work professionals who play a crucial role in providing students with mental health support.

Student Support Services

Counseling–And–Resource–Enhancement (C.A.R.E.)
Lowell Joint School District

Lowell Joint School District C.A.R.E. team

The C.A.R.E. program was developed knowing the challenges students face on a daily basis, especially in light of recent pandemic and society’s challenges, which makes it imperative that the district connects to meet not only their academic growth but also their social-emotional growth and wellness.

The No. 1 goal is to connect person-to-person and heart-to-heart, as LJSD seeks to meet the academic and social-emotional needs for all students throughout the district’s six schools. The C.A.R.E. program ensures that every school has four additional psychologists and/or counseling interns to provide the crucial targeted/personal social-emotional support students’ need, ensuring they connect person-to-person and heart-to-heart.

It’s the seventh program in the district to earn a Golden Bell Award.

Systems of Support

La Vista/La Sierra High Schools’ Academy course
Fullerton Joint Union High School District

La Vista/La Sierra High Schools

La Vista/La Sierra High Schools’ Academy course is designed to promote student growth by teaching necessary organizational, communication and emotional skills in order to become college and career ready. The course focuses on three key areas: relationships, routines and resilience.

The academy places significant emphasis on getting to know students individually and assisting them in connecting with their peers.

Students who are enrolled in the program experience safe and supportive environments where educators provide clear and focused directions, model expectations and assist students in establishing study routines and accessing support resources.

To view the complete list of winners, check out the 2023 Golden Bell Awards webpage.