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The Importance of Establishing a Culture of Excellence

On this website you can find sample copies of the newspaper, The Campanile and sample copies of the magazine, Verde, which are examples of the kinds of student outcomes that can be achieved when students are excited about learning and have ownership of their learning and the outcome of their learning: the publications

The Campanile is a student newspaper published twelve times per academic year by a staff of 50-55 students. It is a broadsheet which means that it is a full sized newspaper running 14 x 22 inches and usually having between 20-24 pages per issue. The publication is self-supporting which means that all students in the program are responsible for learning how to sell ads and to interact with the community. This helps students develop important interpersonal skills and also acts as a public relations mechanism for the school and for the newspaper. It also brings the community closer to the school and makes people feel as though they are active participants in the education process. The students have won the following major national and international competitions over the past fifteen years:

  • Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Crown Awards
  • Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold First Place
  • National Scholastic Press Association PaceMaker Awards
  • Best High School Newspaper in the Nation from Time Publishing
  • National Scholastic Press Association All American Awards
  • Story of the Year Winner sponsored by Los Angeles Times
  • San Francisco Press Club First Place Winner
  • George Gallup International First Place
  • Time Magazine and Time for Kids - Best High School Newspaper - 2002

For years, the students have established a tradition of excellence. Each year the students who come into the program strive to equal or beat the previous students performance. It isn't anything that is ever verbalized or stressed in the program; it is inherent in the culture of the program. They think they are supposed to be "the best," and they make it reality.

The Campanile was founded in 1918 and at that time was a four-page tabloid size paper. It changed to the full-sized broadsheet in the 1930s and has maintained that format.

In 1999, the Palo Alto High School news magazine was born under the guidance of journalism teacher Esther Wojcicki. Called VERDE, it is a student feature, news, reviews publication that is printed on newsprint in an 8.5 x 11 magazine format running 80 pages and is published every ten weeks, or four times per school year with a staff of 25 students. The first year it was published it was awarded the Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Crown for Excellence, which set a high standard for the students who follow in the program.

While it was initially difficult to attract students, the award and the beginning of a culture of excellence has helped tremendously. The following two years, low enrollment has not been an issue and students are excited about being on the staff.

© 2002 - Esther Wojcicki - Email: thewoj@hotmail.com