The Goleta Union School District has been chosen as one of 51 recipients of the state’s leading educational honor, the Golden Bell Award.

Now in their 39th year, the Golden Bell Awards, are sponsored by the California School Boards Association to recognize outstanding public school programs for innovation, sustainability and best practices that facilitate positive student outcomes.

Goleta Union School District will receive its award at a recognition reception and ceremony, 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, at CSBA’s Annual Education Conference and Trade Show at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis, 780 Mission St.

The Early Childhood Consultation, Reflective Practice and Social Emotional Professional Learning Program addresses the increase in social emotional needs by providing daily, embedded social emotional learning for children ages 3-5, and now into transitional kindergarten,.

The expectation is that the early intervention will result in fewer referrals to counseling, and more teachers being trained in how to respond positively, and with expertise, to social-emotional behavioral issues.

An onsite early childhood consultant provides hands-on, in-the-moment interventions to children and supports teachers and aides when a student exhibits challenging behaviors.

After students have gone for the day, the consultant works with teachers on reflective practice techniques which teachers report have increased their competence and energy levels and their willingness and effectiveness in collaborating with parents on challenging issues.

Parents also receive guidance and support on issues involving challenging behaviors, and information regarding other county community agencies offering support.

This program is funded through partner organizations such as the Bower Foundation, the Santa Barbara Women’s Fund, and through the Goleta Education Foundation. This has allowed GUSD to serve their common goals:

To bridge the achievement and equity gap by providing supports at the earliest stages of a child’s educational career, to measure the effectiveness of early childhood education, and to create avenues for increased parent education and early education.

Other involved partner organizations included Child Abuse Listening Mediation (CALM), which provides the services for the initial training for the teachers and the consultant therapist as well as Isla Vista Youth Projects, which provides the family advocate.

“We are very proud to have recognition for this innovative program, which provides intervention in the earliest stages of a student’s educational career,” said Donna Lewis, superintendent of GUSD.

“This will have a profound impact for years to come for our youngest students as well as for their teachers and parents,” she said.

“One of the benefits of this program is the ability for the teachers to sustain their learning well beyond the initial implementation…For students, we are providing tools for what they ‘can’ do, which is invaluable,” said Liz Barnitz, director of instructional services in GUSD.

A 17-member judging panel made up of experts from school districts and county offices of education reviewed the written entries and made the initial recommendations for the awards. On-site validators assessed the programs in action.

This year’s awards are presented to school districts and county offices of education helping students achieve through after-school programs, mentoring, instructional interventions, use of data and other innovations.

“The Golden Bell recipients exemplify the spirit of innovation and excellence for which all of California’s public schools strive,” said Vernon M. Billy, CSBA CEO/executive director.

“The Golden Bell Awards reflect the depth and breadth of outstanding education offerings in our state, and demonstrate the tenacity, vision and dedication of school leaders across California,” Billy said.

To learn more about the Golden Bell awards, visit the California School Boards Association’s Golden Bell website,

— Donna Lewis for Goleta Union School District.