HMS Named a Blue Ribbon School

First published in the Sept. 23 print issue of the San Marino Tribune.

With most news about education still revolving around the COVID-19 pandemic or related issues, the San Marino Unified School District received welcome information on Tuesday morning: Huntington Middle School has been designated a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.
The coveted award affirms the hard work of educators, families and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content. Now in its 39th year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed approximately 10,000 awards on more than 9,000 schools.

The Department of Education recognizes all schools in one of two performance categories, based on all student scores, subgroup student scores and graduation rates. Exemplary High-Performing Schools are among their state’s highest-performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests. Exemplary Achievement Gap-Closing Schools are among their state’s highest-performing schools in closing achievement gaps between a school’s student groups and all students.
Up to 420 schools may be nominated each year. This marks the second time that HMS has achieved Blue Ribbon status.

Principal Daryl Topalian said he was “super-stoked” when he learned Huntington Middle School has received coveted Blue Ribbon status.

“This is nothing that Topalian has done,” said HMS Principal Daryl Topalian. “This is all about the work of our teachers, who continue to do great things every single day. Every single day. This is all about our staff.”
Topalian, who is in his second year as principal, pointed out that HMS was the only middle school in California and one of just 45 middle schools in the country to receive the award.
“It just goes to show you the power of our teachers teaching our kids, working with our kids, coaching our kids, supporting our kids and protecting our kids,” Topalian added. “This is exciting times for our district and our school sites. Sometimes the masks and the COVID overshadow what happens here. We have great students and great faculty, and I am super-stoked.”
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona recognized 325 schools with the honor for 2021, including 28 schools in California. Nearby La Cañada Flintridge had two recipients, with Paradise Canyon and Palm Crest Elementary schools both earning Blue Ribbon status.
Topalian said he has already made arrangement to attend the awards ceremony, which will take place over the weekend of Nov. 4-5 in National Harbor, Maryland.

Now in his 25th year at The Tribune, Mitch Lehman is Editor and Sports Editor in addition to being the public address announcer for ten sports programs at San Marino High School. Mitch is one of only a handful in the community to receive the ‘Very Special Person Award’ from the San Marino PTA at the annual Founder’s Day ceremony, was acknowledged as a 'Terrific Titan' by the San Marino High School PTSA, was named an Honorary Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Club of San Marino and received a National Honorary Merit Badge in Journalism from the Boy Scouts of America. He has received two independent Pulitzer Prize nominations and in the past three years, Mitch has won seven awards and is a thirteen-time finalist in the California News Publishers Association's Better Newspapers Contest. In 2015, the press box at Titan Stadium was re-named 'Lehman's Loft' in his honor. You can reach Mitch at

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