Escalona Elementary Reaches 907 API: Principal Follows Through on Deal by Kissing Pig E-mail
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Written by Tony Aiello   
Saturday, 17 November 2012 19:30

Escalona Elementary principal Bonnie Lytle makes good on a deal made three years ago-if her students ever scored over 900 on the state's API report she would kiss a pig. Figures were released last month and the school scored 907. Time to pucker up! Photo Victoria Pflanzer

Hundreds of Students Squeal in Delight at Ceremony as Principal Keeps Her Word by Smooching Swine

La Mirada ~Escalona Elementary principal Bonnie Lytle made a promise to her students-if the school’s Academic Performance Index (API) ever reached 900, she would kiss a pig.

Although it took three years, Escalona scored a 907 when the figures were released last month-one of the first schools in the district to score over 900.

So, this past Friday Lytle followed through by kissing a pig named Olive- fitting for La Mirada-in front of hundreds of students, parents, and spectators.

The very cold winter-like winds didn’t dampen the spirit of the huge crowd at the after school outdoor celebration called “Pig Party.”

There was a petting zoo, along with booths selling popcorn and candy, and drinks. The Kiwanis Club of La Mirada was also there selling quarter pound hot dogs with the works.

The API is a major component of the Public Schools Accountability Act passed by the California legislature in 1999 and scores range from a low of 200 to a high of 1000. The scores are used as a measurement to monitor a school’s growth.

PTA President Monae Zamott said the kids worked hard, “They have been trying and trying to hit that 900. Each year they have inched a little bit closer, improving their scores all along. She (Lytle) didn’t want the kids to wait for their reward.”

Zamott said that the vow got the kids to study more, and that’s all that really matters, “It was a great challenge and a great motivator for them to study. We can’t wait until she kisses the pig.”

The school had a score of 858 in 2009, climbed to 890 in 2010, and then 907 for 2011.

The scores, compiled from testing done in the previous school year, are released every October.

Many of the students who were tested last year, are partly responsible for the score, but have moved on to Benton, Hutchinson, and other middle schools. They were also invited to the festivities.

Patty Stierles daughter Megan Wilson left Escalona two years ago but kept tabs on the agreement, “She is always asking me what the score for the school is, and asked me if she could get out of school if Mrs. Lytle kisses the pig. I said absolutely.”

Benton Middle School principal Michelle Green, left, and La Pluma Elementary principal Terry Pace, right, dropped by for support. Photo Tony Aiello

Kyle Gerdetz graduated from Escalona last year and also was keeping track even though he had left the school, “We were really excited after the tests last year. We were really confident we were going to get the 900.”

Some of the other alumni to relish in the fruits of their hard work included Jessica Olson, Galaxy Ruiz, Mikaylah Luces, Isabel Alvarez, and Toby Hager.

Norwalk-La Mirada School Board members Karen Morrison and Chris Pflanzer attended the event, and Benton Middle School Principal Michelle Green and La Pluma Principal Terry Pace showed up in support, “This is their crowning moment. They should be so proud,” said Pace.

We sat down with Lytle, who has been the principal at Escalona since 2004, for a couple of moment’s right before the big smooch.

She told us about the rarity of the 900 API score and how she used it as a motivational tool, “At that time (three years ago) there wasn’t a school in our district that had made 900 yet. So, I told the teachers, I think we could do this, and I threw out the challenge to them. They took it out to the kids, and it spread, and they accepted the challenge.”

She elaborated how the concept played out, “This process has really brought all of the students together.”

She explained to us that the students who are tested at elementary schools are grades two through five. So, this last spring in preparation for the 2011 testing she said, “It was really a collaborative effort at the urging amongst the staff. We thought, well, what can we do at all grade levels to encourage the kids before the testing?”

“So, we had all students, including our kindergartners and first graders, participate in a spirit assembly on a Friday to cheer on the students who were taking the test. We kind of followed this idea of-never give up, encourage others, and do your best. If you think about those three things, you will be successful.”

In a photo fit for a Hollywood movie premier, Olive the Pig won't sit still as she is flanked by Norwalk-La Mirada School Board members Chris Pflanzer, left, Karen Morrison, and Escalona principal Bonnie Lytle. Photo Tony Aiello

“And the success isn’t really in that number (900), the success is that the children are achieving academically. They have set a goal and they have reached a goal, and there is great power in believing in yourself and reaching a goal. They can take this-setting goals-into other parts of their life”, she said.

“The kissing of the pig is just a symbol to let them know we are proud of them and we knew that they could do it.”

Lytle also noted, “The parents really play a vital part of this school. This would not be possible; this school would not be what it is, without the great partnership we have with the parents in this community.”



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