Desert Sands Unified School District was recognized by two organizations with multiple honors in the past few months.

The reward for providing excellence in education is in the faces of students and staff. But receiving honors from peers in the business of providing education is very much appreciated.

True to its core values, Desert Sands Unified School District was recognized by two organizations with multiple rewards in the past few months.

The 2021 Explorer Recognition Award was announced on December 1. The award is presented by the California Council for Excellence. CCE provides Baldrige-based assessments to all types of industries throughout the state. As stated on their website, CCE is “dedicated to the pursuit of performance excellence…” ( Reviewing organizations for the California Awards for Performance Excellence (CAPE) results in the presentation of the Explorer Recognition Award as well as two additional categories.

DSUSD Receives Multiple Honors

The graduation photo for the first DSLA team of leaders.

As Desert Sands Unified School District continued its journey to excellence, their submission to CCE took a hard look at the area of leadership, one of the assessment areas offered by the organization. The others are strategic planning, customers, measurement, analysis and knowledge management, workforce, and operations. Using the Baldrige Excellence Framework based on an integrated management framework, DSUSD submitted an in-depth self-analysis and report for consideration for the CAPE Explorer Recognition Award. The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award was established by the United States Congress in 1987 to raise awareness of quality management and recognize companies that have implemented successful quality management systems. The award is the nation’s highest presidential honor for performance excellence. Non-profit organizations, including school districts, are also considered for the award. The journey begun with the acceptance of the CAPE 2021 Explorer Recognition will continue as the district works with the California Council for Excellence on assessments of other areas.

The award submission from DSUSD included responses to established criteria, including organizational environment, organizational relationships, competitive environment, strategic context, performance improvement system, vision and values, communication, mission and organizational performance, organizational governance, legal and ethical behavior, and societal contributions.

An awards ceremony and presentation will be scheduled for spring 2022.

In November, Desert Sands was notified that they had won a California School Board Association (CSBA) Golden Bell Award. Actually, in a very rare occurrence, they won two! In addition, at the awards presentation in early December, a third honor was bestowed on the district.

DSUSD Receives Multiple Honors

A young DSUSD student enjoys reading a book.

The two Golden Bell Awards were for the Desert Sands USD’s Early Literacy Initiative and the Desert Sands Leadership Academy (DSLA). The early childhood literacy program provides a foundation for sustained improvement in English and language arts test scores for students in higher grade levels. The rate of third-grade students meeting or exceeding state English standards has risen seven percentage points, from 47% to 54%, since the program began. DSLA is a commitment to develop school leaders from within.

In partnership with the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), the curriculum provides a 24-day intensive training program, over 15 months, to develop leaders’ capacity to design and sustain systemic change to ensure system wide alignment and college and career readiness for all students.

DSUSD Receives Multiple Honors

Superintendent Scott Bailey and Senior Director of Elementary Education Michael Wilhite introduced Inchy the Bookworm to DSUSD in October 2019.

Desert Sands was also recognized by the CSBA Bronze Affiliates for the Early Literacy Initiative Program under the Early Childhood Education Category and was presented with a $1,000 check for use in the program. The district intends to use the funding to purchase additional books for the Inchy Bookworm vending machine. A golden token allows children to select a book of their very own. The vending machine is located at the district welcome center and staff reward students with golden bookworm tokens as they visit DSUSD. New students to the district receive a book of choice as a welcome gift and no child leaves the building without a book. Inchy was originally purchased with funds from a grant presented by the California Department of Education (CDE) through the Riverside County Office of Education in October 2019.

Golden Bells have been awarded for 42 years. The awards promote excellence in education and school board governance. According to the organization’s website, “This awards program highlights best practices in education in all areas of operations, instruction, and support service.” Desert Sands Unified School District was the recipient of a 2019 Golden Bell for their LTE network build project.

Upon notification of the recent awards, DSUSD Superintendent of Schools Scott Bailey remarked, “These prestigious recognitions reflect the district’s commitment to excellence and further polishes its gold standard reputation.”

Photo caption above: Accepting the Golden Bell Awards, from left to right: Superintendent Scott Bailey, School Board Member Tricia Pearce, School Member Linda Porras, Director of Leadership Development Rebecca Cook,  School DSUSD Board President Donald Griffith, Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Services Joseph Hyde, Ed.D., Board Secretary Ana Conover, Assistant Superintendent Kelly May-Vollmar, Ed.D., Board Member Wendy Jonathan, Board Secretary Blanche Ramirez.



Image Sources

  • A young DSUSD student enjoys reading a book.: DSUSD
  • Accepting Golden Bell Awards: DSUSD