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John F. Kennedy Named California Distinguished School
Posted 4/30/21

On Tuesday, April 27, 2021, State Superintendent Tony Thurmund announced that John F. Kennedy High School has been named a 2021 California Distinguished School by the California Department of education. These recognitions are done every other year for secondary schools. This is the second consecutive year that we have been recognized and it is a great honor. More importantly, it is a testament to the hard work and dedication put forth by our entire staff with a focus on equity and quality education. 

In 2019, Kennedy was honored as a Distinguished School for our efforts and programming that built what we call equitable exposure to a guaranteed and viable curriculum for all students. In other words, our school focuses on programming and strategies that offer intervention immediately to those who need it, while also offering enrichment opportunities for those students already meeting standards. In 2019, Kennedy was recognized because we showed sustained growth in achievement for every student group over the course of three years. A summary of our history and changes that led to our 2019 California Distinguished School recognition can be found here.

Kennedy has now extended that sustained growth for two more years. In addition to this, we have been recognized for our efforts to lower suspension rates for all students and provide a school-wide system of restorative practice and essential behaviors. In 2018, Kennedy High School finally rolled out PRIDE.

Everything we do at Kennedy revolves around PRIDE. It is the systematic, and often automatic foundation and response to behavior. So what does PRIDE stand for?

      Prepared for Learning:

1.     I will arrive on time and am engaged.

2.     I am free of devices and distractions

      Respectful to All:

1.     I will learn and practice self-regulation

2.     I will learn to have empathy for others

      Impact -

1.     I know my actions can have a positive or negative impact on myself and others

2.     My daily choices have subsequent consequences and rewards.


1.     I will hold myself accountable by setting SMART goals.

2.     Discipline - “Doing what needs to be done, doing it to the best of my ability, and doing it that way every single time” (Knight, 2013, p.9)


1.     What is my “plus”?

2.     What support do I need in order to take risks?

In the course of the last two years (prior to COVID -19), the number of suspensions has decreased by 40%. More importantly, the suspensions for African American students have decreased by 80%, suspensions for Homeless students have decreased by 80%, suspensions for Socioeconomically Disadvantaged students have decreased by 48%, and suspensions for Special Education Students have decreased by 73%. We truly believe that this new approach to addressing behavior has made our school a better place for both students and staff. I cannot overstate how proud we are with the results of the changes we have instituted over the past 5 years. 

The California Department of Education (CDE) identifies and awards eligible schools based on performance and progress on state indicators specified on the California School Dashboard, the state’s accountability and continuous improvement system. Indicators include test scores, suspension rates, and conditions and climate. After a review of the data, CDE identified these additional schools for this year’s honor.

“These additional high schools join the ranks of all 2021 California Distinguished Schools who are being recognized for this distinction because of their exceptional record to provide for all students and their commitment to data-driven efforts that prepare students for college and career,” Thurmond said. “Our thanks go to the entire communities surrounding these schools, including the teachers, administrators, and classified employees as well as the students and their families who, through teamwork, all accomplished this impressive achievement together.”

Sponsored by the CDE and presented by California Casualty, the Distinguished Schools Program recognizes schools for their excellent work in one of two categories: closing the achievement gap and achieving exceptional student performance. Elementary schools and middle and high schools are recognized in alternate years; therefore, awardees hold the title for two years. The list of additional schools is attached at the end of this press release.

Distinguished Schools represent examples of not just excellent teaching, learning, and collaboration, but also highly successful, data-driven school efforts ranging from professional development to positive behavior intervention. As we move toward the coming year, our staff will continue to look at areas of need and do our part to ensure that we continue to look at data to create and sustain the best possible programming for our current and future Titans! Thank you for your ongoing support of our school and our students.

Edward Velez


John F. Kennedy High School

(510) 657-4070 ext. 27030