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Bethany Elementary School

Students and staff at Bethany Elementary School have a lot to be proud of, recently ranked as one of the 50 best elementary schools in U.S. by TheBestSchools.org. "This wasn't something we applied or asked for. To choose us as one of the top 50 was just an amazing honor," says Principal Rafael Montelongo.

The article cited parent and community involvement as one of the keys to Bethany's success and Montelongo agrees. "They are fabulous. I can't say it enough, not only the fundraising, but the hours they put in, are critical." Those volunteers include the Watch DOGS (Dads of Great Students). The program is aimed at increasing male volunteerism in schools. The Watch DOGS not only help out in the classroom, but also meet and greet students as they're being dropped off. Parents appreciate the extra sets of eyes watching out for their children. "We get so many compliments on those who serve as Watch DOGS," says Montelongo.

Clearly, staff members play a huge role in the school's success. "The staff who have been here for years are just as wonderful and innovative as staff who've been here for two years, fresh out of college," says Montelongo. He says they constantly focus on the students, and evaluating whether they're doing something because it is better for them, or better for the child.

Next year, the staff plans to introduce kindergarten students to the school-wide Geo Quest program. The program gives students an opportunity to learn the world's independent countries by continent. "It's knowledge that really lets the kids feel empowered and creates a global awareness," says Montelongo.

From students and staff, to community members and parents, it's the collaboration that Montelongo says makes his school great. "It's a really amazing school community."