Schools in Castro Valley and Fremont are among six in Alameda County named California Distinguished Schools for their track record and innovation in improving student academic achievement.

They are among 218 public middle and high schools that will be honored statewide for making progress in narrowing the academic achievement gap that separates higher-scoring white and Asian students from their African-American and Latino peers.

The schools were judged on a written application, including a description of a school's "signature practices" and a review by the school's county office of education.

The award this year honored secondary schools, which the program recognizes in alternate years with elementary schools. The schools will be honored at a statewide ceremony in May.

The winning schools include Canyon Middle School in the Castro Valley Unified School District, and William Hopkins Junior High in Fremont Unified.

Hayward teacher receives state award

Tennyson High School's Miroslaba "Lili" Velo has been named outstanding California senior high school history teacher of the year.

Velo, who heads the Hayward school's social studies department, works with students of all levels, including advanced placement and English learners. She has shared her techniques with teachers throughout the county under an Alameda County Office of Education program and at state conferences.

Tennyson High School Principal Lori Villanueva called Velo a fantastic teacher deserving of the award, which was presented in March by the California Council for the Social Studies.

"From my first day of observing her teaching, I could tell she was a superstar," Villanueva said. "She's one of those teachers who volunteers for committees and does extra work to make the school a fantastic place."

Student competes in state geographic bee

A Castro Valley 10-year-old advanced to the state National Geographic Bee, which was held April 5 in Sacramento.

Tyler D'Errico, a fifth-grader at Jensen Ranch Elementary School, finished 12th in the state, said his mother, Denise.

Tyler was one of 105 students to compete at the state level. In the preliminary, he was one of 29 who scored 100 percent. "They did 14 rounds of tiebreakers, and he made it through the 12th round," his mother said.

The competition is open to fourth- through eighth-grade students. The national finals will be held May 20-22 in Washington, D.C.

Mt. Eden choir takes top honors at festival

The Mt. Eden High School choir swept every category it entered at the Anaheim Music Heritage Festival held April 5-6. The Hayward school's choir won top honors in men's choir, women's choir, mixed choir, chamber choir, men show choir and women show choir. The choir is under the direction of Ken Rawdon.

The school's orchestra won first place and overall outstanding instrumental group at the event. The Mt. Eden wind and percussion ensembles won second places, and the jazz band took third. E. Ronnie Cato is the director of the orchestra, and Kevin Cato is director of the wind and percussion ensembles.

Fremont mayor honors pair of Mission San Jose High students

Two Mission San Jose High School students were honored for their academic achievements with a school visit Wednesday from Fremont Mayor Bill Harrison.

Zongning Zhang, an 11th-grade student, was honored for being named one of two state winners of the 2013 Siemens Award for Advanced Placement, which recognizes the nation's top achievers in the courses of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. She received a $2,000 college scholarship, a plaque and a banner.

Zhang, a Fremont resident, also is a violinist in the San Francisco Youth Symphony.

Also honored was Kevin Chen, a 12th-grade student who was named a finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search. The annual contest is the nation's most prestigious science research competition for high school seniors.

Homeroom is a weekly roundup of news from schools in the greater Hayward and Tri-City areas.