While its campus may be small and somewhat unassuming, Knights Ferry Elementary School is achieving big things.
The rural campus was recently awarded the California Gold Ribbon Schools Award by the State of California Department of Education. The award was created to honor schools in place of the California Distinguished Schools Program.
“These schools shine as bright beacons for others, putting forth an exemplary effort to ensure that every student is ready for 21st century college and careers,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in a press release. “California teachers developing an education model for the nation, training the students of today to be the problem solvers, inventors and pioneers of tomorrow.”
A total of 772 elementary schools statewide received the honor of the 6,000 which were eligible to apply. Knights Ferry School was the only elementary school in Stanislaus County named as a recipient.
Dr. Janet (Dr. J) Skulina, Superintendent and Principal of Knights Ferry School, is passionate about the staff, the students and the community of Knights Ferry. So much so that she happily took the time to prepare and complete the application outlining the unique instructional traditions offered at Knights Ferry.
Schools were asked to provide a model program or practice that their site has adopted that includes standards-based activities, projects, strategies and practices that may be replicated.
Dr. J shared her submission was based around Community Based Integrated Instructional Practices (CBIIP), which takes the students out into the community of Knights Ferry and teaches them through hands on experience.
“Lots of these things have traditionally been done for years,” she said. “It was finding a way to integrate them to instruction and doing something that benefits the community.”
A number of activities were referenced in the application including studies the students had done with salmon and water, salmon release, fish hatcheries, water studies, pear picking and canning, almond ranching and gardening.
“They were able to use original kind of equipment,” the Superintendent said of the upper grades’ pear picking lesson. “They learned about safety. They also canned … did the canning. Plus they studied the science of canning and looked at why some of their pears looked bad and some didn’t.”
So as not to be wasted the canned items were then given to community members.
Dr. J shared that she feels the parental and community involvement at the hill top school has a direct effect on the school’s performance level.
“For us it’s the parent involvement and behavior,” she said. “We have very low if any behavior issues at this school.
“A reason that this award for us is so important is that we’re a very small school and kind of far away from Oakdale,” she added. “We have a lot of special things we offer for kids but you wouldn’t know that necessarily.”
Knights Ferry School has a longstanding history of integrating with the community and taking advantage of its rural surroundings, now through partnering such things with lesson plans and learning the school will continue with its CBIIP.
“The teachers and community work very well together,” Dr. J shared on her feelings toward receiving the honor. “These teachers work really hard. It just recognizes for me the work that everybody does together on behalf of the kids.
“This is really for me all about educating the kids and that every day we recognize what’s important and that’s the kids that come to school every day.”