They strolled, scampered and skipped to the front of Palm Middle School’s auditorium Thursday night to accept their certificates of accomplishment.
Superintendent Ernie Anastos and principals in the seven-school Lemon Grove School District shook hands and shepherded dozens of award winners to the stage steps.
They were among the 95 students reclassified as English-proficient.
“We’re thrilled that so many of our kids each year are reclassified,” Anastos said, noting that 40 percent of the K-8 district’s 4,000 students are English-learners. “We think it’s such a big deal here that we created an awards event.”
So about 150 parents and children heard from Palm principal Russell Little and other district officials who praised their linguistic and societal milestone.
“Our most successful children are successful because they have parents like you,” Anastos told the adults.
Now in its fourth year, the reclassification ceremony was the product of principals meeting with Marcia Mattson, the district director of educational services, rather than a single person’s idea, Anastos said.
English proficiency is measured by state tests, and also five levels of advancement, he said.
He also gave credit to the parent-led District English Language Advisory Committees at each school for their part in the process, as well as community liaison Victoria Vega for coordinating the event.
Some students were absent from the ceremonies—because of competing activities like baseball—but they’ll be recognized at assemblies at their home schools.
But the excitement didn’t end in the middle school auditorium.
After dinner in the courtyard, and an open house with breakout sessions for parents, fireworks were shot off.
The display, however, startled a herd of about 200 goats penned on a hillside adjacent to the school, sending the animals charging into the street below, according to Deputy Chief Tim Smith of the Lemon Grove Fire Department.
Smith said Tom Rosenberger, a fire prevention specialist who was at the school for the sky show, called him about 8:30 p.m. regarding the loose goats. About 20 residents pitched in to help round up the wily wanderers that were running along Camino de las Palmas, he said.
After pushing the herd up Palm Street, the animals, which are regarded as docile, were back in their corral by about 9:10 p.m., Smith said.
“Fortunately, the goat incident is over,” he said with a chuckle Thursday night. “I didn't know that was in my job description, but it was a lot of fun.”
Smith said no animals or people were injured, though there was some concern the goats may have trampled things a bit.
“They're worried about a couple of the yards, which might have gotten nibbled,” he said.
The city is using a goat herd from Environmental Land Management to clear brush and dry vegetation from the parcels above Camino de las Palmas. The same was used last year, as well, at a site off Lawton Drive, and in the Main Street Promenade redevelopment area.
Lemon Grove was featured on on CBS for its innovative approach to clearing away overgrowth in fire-hazard areas, and the herd was photographed for a feature in National Geographic.