All Arcadia Unified Elementary Schools Earn Historic Acclaim in California’s Coveted 2023 Distinguished Schools Program


Hugo Reid Club Leaders

Student leaders at Hugo Reid Elementary School help showcase their excitement for the variety of clubs and student groups offered on their campus.


For the first time ever, all six of Arcadia Unified’s elementary schools, as well as its alternative learning program, have earned concurrent recognition from the California Department of Education (CDE) as 2023 California Distinguished Schools. 

Since the CDE’s founding of the California Distinguished Schools Program in 1985, all of Arcadia Unified’s elementary and middle schools have been recognized as California Distinguished Schools at least once. This is the first time in the program’s history that Arcadia Unified’s six comprehensive elementary schools, Baldwin Stocker, Camino Grove, Highland Oaks, Holly Avenue, Hugo Reid, and Longley Way, and its alternative learning program, Rancho Learning Center, have simultaneously held this prestigious title. 

“We have no words adequate enough to express our immense pride in having all six of Arcadia Unified’s elementary schools and our alternative education program named as California Distinguished Schools in the same year,” said Arcadia Unified Superintendent Dr. David Vannasdall.

Arcadia Unified’s elementary schools and Rancho Learning Center join an elite group of public elementary schools that represent less than 6% of schools across the state to earn a spot in this year’s California Distinguished Schools program. Additionally, Arcadia Unified is tied for fifth place among school districts in the state and second in Los Angeles County for the highest number of schools identified by the CDE as Distinguished Schools. With 70 schools in the county earning Distinguished School titles, that makes one in every 10 of Los Angeles County’s commended schools an Arcadia Unified California Distinguished School. 



In addition, Arcadia Unified’s Rancho Learning Center is one of only two noted “alternative” education programs in the state to receive this renowned recognition. 


“This historic moment for our school district is a testimony to the steadfast commitment, skilled work, and thoughtful decisions made on how to continue to meet our students’ needs throughout the ever-evolving stages of the pandemic,” shared Arcadia Unified Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Dr. Brent Forsee. 


The California Distinguished Schools Program celebrates and showcases public education institutions whose educators, staff, and leaders demonstrate exceptional talent, innovation, and success in supporting student learning and development. California schools earn the prestigious “Distinguished School” designation through exemplary work in one of two categories: closing the achievement gap or achieving exceptional student performance. In identifying its 2023 Distinguished Schools, the CDE examined data reported through the 2022 California School Dashboard system. This dashboard system is comprised of CDE-specified state indicators, which include assessment results, chronic absenteeism, suspension rates, and socioeconomic data. 


“This state distinction signifies how our world-class team of educators, counselors, staff, board members, and administrators continuously work together, no matter the circumstances, and partner with our wonderful students and families to find collaborative, creative, and meaningful strategies to support the successful academic and social-emotional development of our students,” said Dr. Forsee. 


Arcadia Unified’s six elementary schools and Rancho Learning Center will hold their California Distinguished School titles for the next two years, as the CDE recognizes elementary schools in alternating years from the state’s secondary schools. In the past, all of Arcadia Unified’s middle schools, Dana, First Avenue, and Foothills, have also been recognized at least once as California Distinguished Schools, and last year, Arcadia Unified’s Foothills Middle School was named a 2022 National Blue Ribbon School by the United States Department of Education. 


“California Distinguished Schools represent examples of not just excellent teaching, learning, and collaboration, but also highly successful, data-driven school efforts ranging from professional development for educators to mental health and social-emotional wellness strategies to address the needs of students and families,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. “Their innovation and hard work have helped to ensure their students can heal, recover, and thrive—even in the toughest times.”


2023 California Distinguished School honorees will receive official recognition in a CDE-hosted awards ceremony on Feb. 16  at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim. For more information about the California Distinguished Schools program, visit, and for additional information on Arcadia Unified’s California Distinguished Schools, visit