Judith A. Hillen
The district has excelled in commitment to innovation with the purchase of iPads for students. Santa Lucia Middle School has embraced the challenge to explore digital resources to expand their knowledge base and technological experience. Room for improvement lies in communicating and consensus building in the community. Wise decision-making requires input from a variety of factions, and demands we listen respectfully with open minds. The quality of our work depends on our thoughtful responses to questions asked and suggestions posed.
The demographics of this community reflect a population with a strong Hispanic presence. We need to welcome all parents and teachers to actively participate on committees and build capacity for all students to be served.
We are, after all, in the business of teaching and learning. Our clients are our students. Our goals are preparation and achievement — both academically and personally. Our focus should be on striving for excellence for our students. Therefore, every proposed financial cut should be scrutinized by the question, “How would this impact our students and our goals?”
CUSD is: educating second language learners, installing district-wide Wi-Fi, iPads, Elmo projectors and iPods, maintaining a Strategic Action Plan, developing people, optimizing efficiency, maximizing student achievement, utilizing volunteers, earning maximum WASC approval and Distinguished School awards, improving test scores, sending 90% of graduates to college, seeking grants, teaching technology and leadership with Youth Institute.
CUSD can work on: increasing Career Technical Education, increasing second language family participation thru advisory committees and Leadership Academy, closing the achievement gap, communicating with community.
My priority for all staff positions, including management, is to ensure that our district hires the best-qualified individuals, regardless of gender or ethnicity. Without the excellence of staff, we cannot provide excellence in leadership, support and education.
The criteria for deciding difficult decisions must be to comply with federal and state mandates, ask what is best for the students, maximize our use of staff to achieve goals, ensure we have proper and adequate funding, and determine if it is an essential component of the Strategic Action Plan. For critical program reduction decisions, it is important to utilize public involvement to determine what best serves the community.
With the current release of the API scores it is apparent that our teachers and school programs are providing quality and exemplary academic education that is so necessary for our children to succeed. The inclusion of technology for individual student use needs furthers this ability. We need to make sure that our teachers remain motivated and enthusiastic and are provided with the most current educational experiences and technological devices to be able to maintain the demands of comprehensive high-level education.
The gender of our administrators should be a balanced mixture to provide the most complete vision of our schools. As openings arise in the administration staff, the most qualified applicants should be hired. As our student population changes in its diversity, administrators should reflect such changes. Understanding the cultural and ethnic values of our students are crucial qualities that the administration should hold as their ability to relate educational issues to our students and community of parents are most important.
The focus needs to be to keep as many meaningful programs as possible that best meet the needs of the students. Difficult economic times mean difficult decisions that have to be equally shared with all parties in the educational process. Programs that work to support and improve academic development, attendance and achievement must be the first priority. Other methods of utilizing remaining funds would be necessary to achieve the ultimate goal of providing high quality, comprehensive and meaningful education.
The district can be proud of its test scores (above the targeted API score goal for the state). Did you know that proficiency means a grade equivalent of B+? Let’s emphasize the joy of learning and realize not everyone can make a B+ in math and English. Students do their best when they are excited about content. Our teachers are dedicated professionals, never wavering in their caring commitment to our students. Room for improvement exists in the area of communication.
Strengthening our English language learners’ command of English serves our community and makes our students gain proficiency. Public education must focus on what happens between the student and the teacher, in the classroom, where learning occurs. Let’s have an International Day, district-wide with food, music, dance and art from our diverse community. The keys to learning are appreciation, exposure and practice. Ethnic diversity is a by-product of cultural diversity being celebrated and experienced.
Steps the district may take for program implementation need to be founded on “best practices” standards of education. Parent and teacher input are critical to the success of any new program. I have experience in implementing an International Baccalaureate Program which may benefit our elementary school by helping English language learners, for example. Strong academic programs in critical thinking and decision making are critical in this information age. Information is abundant. Let’s build fine citizens and promote health and safety.