Altama Elementary celebrates graduation of kindergarten students

Altama Elementary gained a lot of new first grade students Tuesday when 100 kindergartners were graduated with shiny gold crowns and sashes.

Many of them received awards for their academic achievement, and there were some that their teachers found to be the most improved. A few of them also were awarded the Michelle Drew Sunshine Award named for the beloved former principal who died suddenly last school year.

Principal Eric Cabrera said it was a fitting name for the award.

“Her everyday phrase was something like, ‘If you can’t see the sunshine, be the sunshine,’’’ he said.

As the graduation ceremony concluded, before the students began posing for pictures and getting cupcakes, Cabrera gave their parents some homework.

Over the summer, “please help your first graders” improve in reading and other skills so they’ll be ready when school resumes, he said.

Cabrera said it’s been a good year for Altama with a lot of improvements in achievement. The school experienced upticks of about 20 percent in achievement levels and in percentiles when compared to other kindergarten students. He expects that to pay dividends.

“You get them on the right track here, first grade is a little better,’’ he said.

He credited the teachers who form relationships, work individually with students and make extra phone calls to parents, Cabrera said.

The students probably didn’t realize all that as their parents and grandparents hugged them and told them how proud they were. Some brought flowers and balloons, and the school provided some tasty treats in a reception for the families.