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State Sees Great Things in Carlsbad's 'School to Watch'

Calavera Hills Middle School is one of just four San Diego County middle schools to get a prestigious state title.

is one of just four middle schools in San Diego County that has received a unique honor from a state education program: It is now an official "California School to Watch—Taking Center Stage" school.

In the classroom, students are making a difference with the “Coyote Crossroads” program. In a special education class, students with autism are paired with other students of the same age group so both can benefit. Brianna Caballero, 14, helps Nicolas with his recognition skills and homework. Even though he cannot “talk” back to her in words, he responds.

“I work with them with their file folders. I’ll go on walks with them, and I’ll talk to them and try to communicate with them and just be friends with them,” she said. “I really enjoy working with them. … They, like, make my day.”

Brianna is thinking of pursuing a career as a special education teacher now that she has experience in this classroom.  School guidance counselor Jesse Gonzalez says she is very good at what she does here.

“She sees it as sort of a challenge because she really enjoys the response she gets from the students that’s she’s helping. She sees the growth, and it makes her feel really good, and she enjoys helping others. She’s got a big heart.”

Another aspect of CHMS that won the praise of the selection committee is the Associated Student Body program. Student ASB President Shelby Lee is a natural leader who’s learning the specifics on how leadership qualities are identified and then taught to others.

“We talk about qualities like caring and teamwork because you have to be able to work with other people to be a leader. And we do things like being confident with yourself because you have to be confident to be a leader.”

Last December, a state committee came to Calavera Hill to evaluate its programs. The school “passed the test” in 37 different categories and has put in place educational programs that other schools can learn to follow. 

The principal of the school, Katina Hancock, says they didn’t do anything "special" to be recognized for this honor. They just did what was best for the kids, she said, and put a name on some of the things they were doing already.

Superintendent John Roach is pleased with this honor for the school. “It is a tremendous accomplishment, especially for a school that is only seven years old, and focusing on the needs of middle school students is just terrific. They’ve done a great job, and I’m really proud of them." 

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