GGUSD Recognized with Distinguished California Education Accolade

Teri and Walter accepting Golden Bell

Garden Grove Unified School District (GGUSD) was selected as one of 60 recipients of California’s leading educational honor, the Golden Bell Award, for the district’s ASPIRE system of care which supports student mental health and well-being. The award presented by the California School Boards Association promotes excellence in public education and school board governance by recognizing outstanding programs and governance practices. For GGUSD, the outstanding practice recognized with the Golden Bell Award was the ASPIRE System of Care, a three-tiered innovative approach to school-based mental health counseling which has made a transformative impact on the mental health needs of students in GGUSD.

GGUSD Board of Education President Walter Muneton and Vice President Teri Rocco received the Golden Bell award at a well-attended reception and ceremony on Nov. 30, 2023, at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square. The awards ceremony was part of CSBA’s Annual Education Conference and Trade Show held from Nov. 30-Dec. 2 in San Francisco.

The ASPIRE system of care fosters an environment of support at school through the effective implementation of school-based counseling that helps students thrive academically, emotionally and socially. Thanks to the Board’s commitment, the ASPIRE system grew from one social worker and six interns in 2017 to 22 school social workers, 30 mental health specialists, and 65 mental health interns by 2022-2023, a 254% increase in district-employed social work professionals who play a crucial role in providing students with mental health support.

ASPIRE’s first tier of support focuses on universal mental health promotion and prevention strategies which included a 550% increase in social emotional learning lessons and the support of 36 wellness centers on school campuses. The second tier includes targeted interventions for students who require specialized support such as group counseling and skill-building. The 2022-23 school year saw a 267% increase in tier two interventions compared to 2021-22.  The third tier offers intensive individualized interventions for students with complex mental health needs including specialized counseling, referrals to mental health professionals and collaboration with community resources. Due to the success of the first two tiers, individual counseling referrals are down 8% and suicide risk assessments decreased 13%.

GGUSD’s ASPIRE System of Care also provides professional development opportunities for staff, empowering educators to recognize early signs of distress in students and fostering a culture of understanding and empathy. It also provides families with district and community resources to help support student well-being at home. The consistent actions of support taken by GGUSD’s Board of Education displays their robust commitment to ensuring timely, compassionate, comprehensive and easily accessible mental-health services for our students, staff and families.

The Golden Bell judging panel composed of experts from school districts and county offices of education across the state reviewed written entries and made initial recommendations. On-site validators then reviewed the recommendations and assessed the programs in action. This year’s Golden Bell winners demonstrated that they are addressing student needs through areas such as equity and access, school climate and safety, technology, and wellness.

To learn more about the Golden Bell Awards and all the winners, visit



 CSBA is a nonprofit education association representing the elected officials who govern public school districts and county offices of education. With a membership of nearly 1,000 educational agencies statewide, CSBA brings together school governing boards and district and county office administrators to advocate for effective policies that advance the education and well-being of the state’s more than 6 million school-age children. Learn more at