Four Sonoma County schools were among just 373  around the state to be named Gold Ribbon Schools this May.

The  new, statewide award recognizes schools that are “academically successful, vibrant, and innovative centers of learning and teaching,” said State Superintendent of Instruction Tom Torlakson in a press release. “They provide great examples of the things educators are doing right—embracing rigorous academic standards, providing excellence and creativity in teaching, and creating a positive school climate.”

The award  was created to honor schools in place of the California Distinguished Schools Program, which is on hiatus while California creates new assessment and accountability systems.

The schools receiving the honor were Hillcrest Middle School, Casa Grande High School, Santa Rosa High School and El Molino High School.

El Molino received this recognition in part for the Lions LEAP (Learning in Elite Academic Partnerships) program, Principle Matt Dunkle said in a press release.  Designed to more effectively engage students with a rigorous and relevant curriculum, the program helps students meet A-G requirements that prepare them for entry to a four-year college. El Molino, which has been actively working to increase its enrollment and visibility in the community by implementing a range of new programs, also ranked among the state’s top schools in a recent study by U.S. News & World Report. It was listed 368 in those rankings.