Golden Bell Award from California School Boards Association celebrates outstanding educational programs and governance practices

SACRAMENTO – For the second consecutive year, Desert Sands Unified School District was selected as one of 52 recipients of California’s leading educational honor, the Golden Bell Award.

The District received the coveted honor in 2021 as well as in 2019.

The Golden Bell Awards, celebrating their 43rd year, are presented by the California School Boards Association to promote excellence in public education and school board governance by recognizing outstanding programs and governance practices. The awards reflect the depth and breadth of education programs and governance decisions supporting these programs that are necessary to address students’ changing needs.

Desert Sands Unified School District received its award at a well-attended reception and ceremony on Dec. 1, 2022, at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina. The awards ceremony was part of CSBA’s Annual Education Conference and Trade Show held from Dec. 1-3 in San Diego. The conference is the premier continuing education event for California school board members and the largest education leadership conference in the state.

The DSUSD program presented with the award was the district-wide Integrated Mental Health Program.

“The goal of the district-wide program is to prioritize student mental health by embedding wellness practices in the school setting to promote success for students in and out of the classroom, particularly during the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr. Charity Plaxton-Hennings, Senior Director of Special Education for Desert Sands, said in a prepared statement.

In the program description provided to CSBA, the district explained that the objectives of the initiative include deliberate action to create a multidisciplinary team at school sites to develop and establish an integrated framework of educational, social and emotional and behavioral health support for every student. The goal is to enhance mental health literacy and reduce stigma and other barriers to access mental health services and to implement evidence-based practices on a continuum of services via data driven decision making. A multidisciplinary staff that includes school administrators, counselors, mental health therapists, school psychologists, educators, nurses and other related service providers provide a diverse perspective to nurture the holistic approach to support the full potential of each student.  Educators are provided professional development such as trauma informed education, restorative practices, and on-going support in the area of mental health wellness to increase their skill set to be protective factors for all students.

A judging panel composed of experts from school districts and county offices of education across the state reviewed written entries and made initial recommendations. On-site validators then reviewed the recommendations and assessed the programs in action. This year’s Golden Bell winners demonstrated that they are addressing student needs through areas such as equity and access, school climate and safety, technology, and wellness.

“As we wrestle with the aftermath of the pandemic and address longstanding issues related to student success, it’s important to highlight school districts and county offices of education that are demonstrate promising practices for closing opportunity and achievement gaps and supporting student wellness,” CSBA CEO & Executive Director Vernon M. Billy said in a prepared statement. “This year’s Golden Bell winners have developed remarkable programs that can serve as an example for schools across the state as they work to accelerate learning recovery and foster healthy school environments for all California students.

To learn more about the Golden Bell Awards and all the winners, click on the link.


Image Sources

  • DSUSD staff: DSUSD