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Alisal USD receives Golden Bell Award for Professional Development

Alisal USD receives prestigious Golden Bell award for the second year in a row.


Salinas – For the second year in a row, Alisal USD has been recognized for one of its outstanding programs. “Collaborative Leadership: Professional Development for Teachers” has been selected by the California School Boards Association to receive one of its prestigious Golden Bell Awards.


“This award recognizes the District’s commitment to excellence in education,” Superintendent Jim Koenig said. “By providing our teachers with ongoing opportunities to master their teaching skills, the District is ensuring students receive the best possible instruction.” 


Two years after California approved the Common Core Standards, Alisal USD administrators had to grapple with the low test results of its high-need student population. As part of a labor-management compact, unions and administrators agreed that educators needed to be at the table when it came to designing professional development for teachers. A team of administrators and teachers developed the following vision statement: Alisal will “build and sustain a culture of learning, refine systems that guarantee access to high quality teaching and learning, and facilitate adult learning focused on continuous improvement.” 


Now entering its 9th year, the Collaborative Leadership approach to professional development has resulted in at least 16 district-wide professional development conferences for and by Alisal educators. The new approach immediately led to rising test scores: in 2016, only 24 percent of students met or exceeded ELA standards, while only 18 percent met or exceeded math standards. By 2019, 36 percent of Alisal students districtwide met or exceeded ELA standards, and 29 percent of students met or exceeded Math standards – a 13 percentage point gain in just three years in ELA, and 11 in math.  


The embodiment of the Collaborative Leadership approach is in the yearly marquis professional development event: The Great Alisal Teaching Conference, a collaboration between the EdTech department, Curriculum and Instruction, and union leaders. The Great Alisal Teaching Conference offers professional learning opportunities that are differentiated to provide growth and challenge for all teachers.  


“One of the core values of the Alisal Union School District is having all voices on the table when making decisions. A key example is the collaboration that exists between administrators and teachers, which has resulted in professional development that’s relevant to practitioners and addresses the needs of the students in our classrooms. The Golden Bell Award recognizes that commitment,” said Monica Anzo, Associate Superintendent of Educational Services. 


This is the second consecutive year Alisal USD receives a Golden Bell award, and the third one in the last five years. The District was recognized for its Extended Learning Program in 2022, which includes the exciting performing arts groups Drumline, Colorguard, Mariachi and Folklorico dance. In 2019, the District earned a Golden Bell for its Family Resources Centers. 


The award was presented to Alisal USD leaders during the annual conference of the California School Boards Association in San Francisco on Nov. 30, 2023. Receiving the award were Superintendent Koenig, Associate Superintendent of Educational Services Monica Anzo, Director of Curriculum and Instruction Edi Porter, Human Resources Coordinator George Lopez, Alisal Teacher Association Vice President Estela Mercado, and Alisal USD Board Members Robert Ocampo, Leticia Garcia, Jose Antonio Jimenez, and Fernando Mercado. 


The Golden Bell Awards of the California School Boards Association promote excellence in education and school board governance by recognizing outstanding programs and governance practices of school boards in school districts and county offices of education throughout California. Golden Bell Awards reflect the depth and breadth of education programs and governance decisions supporting these programs that are necessary to address students’ changing needs.