HACIENDA HEIGHTS — Every fifth- and sixth-grader at St. Mark’s Lutheran School has to learn how to play the hand bells. Every fifth-grader takes Chinese, and all students take art once a week and music twice a week. The 43-year-old school’s diversity of programs is its greatest strength, according to Principal Barbara Clark, and one of the reasons St. Mark’s was recently named a No Child Left Behind National Blue Ribbon School. It was the only school in the East San Gabriel Valley to be selected this year, although Arroyo Vista Elementary School in South Pasadena, Carver Elementary School in San Marino and New Horizon School in Pasadena also were chosen. St. Mark’s was one of seven private elementary schools selected statewide. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week “We have a comprehensive curriculum — not just math and reading. Science and social studies are just as important, and specialty classes like music, art and physical education,” said Clark, who is in her 20th year as principal. The designation honors public and private K-12 schools that are either academically superior or demonstrate dramatic gains in achievement. To qualify, schools have to place in the top 10th on tests in reading and mathematics. In addition, the 650-student school had to show achievement was spread over different ethnic groups, said Clark, whose school is 35 percent Asian, 33 percent Latino, 30 percent white and 2 percent African American. All the students learn to read music. The school just launched a “full-scale” drama department, and two computer labs. They have two art teachers and two music teachers, a full-time math coach and a full-time reading specialist. “There’s a lot of pressure about tests, but we haven’t pushed testing that hard. Our test preparation consisted of sending a note to parents to tell them to please make sure their child gets a good night’s rest the night before,” Clark said. Clark herself teaches a class –eighth-grade history — and the vice principal teaches a religion class. Having administrators teach keeps them in touch with the students, she said. “Well, I do it because I really like it,” she said. Parents generally hear of the school through word of mouth, Clark said. La Habra Heights resident Vicki Cooke, parent of a fourth-grader and fifth-grader at the school, said she looked at both public and private schools in the area before choosing St. Mark’s. “There are great public schools in Hacienda Heights,” she said. “But this is the best kept secret in Hacienda Heights.” Shirley Hsu can be reached at (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2306, or by e-mail at [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!