SCUSD Observer

Sacramento, California

Archive for November 2008

Time Is Ripe For Opportunity

Change. It’s the buzzword of the year and it has filtered down to our school district with the collision of many issues — the budget crisis, the consent decree high school postponement, possible school closures and three newly-elected school board members who have the potential to swing a majority vote.

The board will face its share of formidable challenges in the coming months with one task in particular standing above the rest — picking a new superintendent. We need a leader who will source change and fiscal responsibility. We also need a leader who will cultivate a common-sense and compassionate culture – someone who will truly understand what is being asked of staff, teachers, parents and students asked to cut budgets, close schools and ultimately lose jobs and opportunities.

The new superintendent must be more than an ego-driven figurehead.

This new board needs to do its homework. Diana Rodriquez, Donald Terry, Gustavo Arroyo and Patrick Kennedy all stood up for the issue of strong community engagement.This ideal needs to hold and these new members need to avoid the comfortable crawl of delaying decisions while waiting for staff reports. The new board team must not hear only what it wants to hear, instead it must persistently listen to public comment and internalize voices other than its own.

And what will we do? As parents, citizens, and activists it is important for us to continue to come together to hold this board accountable for change. The work of so many neighborhood groups over the past few years has planted seeds. We must continue to cultivate our crop, knowing when to be aggressive and when to be patient. We have a clear and legitimate voice and we will be heard.

Written by scusdobserver

November 26, 2008 at 5:54 pm

Posted in Commentary

St. Hope’s indebtedness

Yesterday’s story in the Sacramento Bee outlines the depth of St. Hope’s fiscal indebtedness to the city’s school system. The highlights include the scope and history of the problem. The reader comment section tells the rest of the story. Some of these are just too astute to fade away into cyberspace. Below are some excerpts:

When the occupant of your prized-possession campus in the heart of our city can slip $1 million dollars in the hole while bleeding you of revenue-generating enrollments at PUBLIC high schools, you’re in no position to propose the cutbacks this District so obviously needs.

I thought the whole point of St. Hope was that they would do a better job teaching the at-risk student. Let’s be clear, it is not hard to teach motivated kids, even if they come from poor households. The trick is to motivate the unmotivated. Maya seems to admit what we all feared. St. Hope’s goal is to take the best students for themselves and leave the other high schools with the more challenging students.

All the “access” in the world won’t help Sac Charter if they can’t retain the students they already have. Their dropout/expulsion/turnover rate is way higher than the other public comprehensive high schools. And remember, these are students who chose to go to this school. No one forced then to go. They don’t leave because the school has such high expectations. West Campus and HISP also have very high expectations of their students and there is a waiting list to get into these schools/programs. The real reason may simply be that Sac Charter is not a good match for the majority of students in the former Sacramento High School attendance area.

I was in the first class to graduate with all four years of Sac High being under St. Hope (2007). Each year we saw less and less students, the students that actually needed help. St. Hope doesn’t give help to the students who are enviromentally or SES challenged, they simply drive them away to other schools- to be someone else’s problem. St. Hope wants people to think they are this shining beackon of light for students and their community, but it’s all smoke and mirrors. Work at St. Hope, or send your child there….then you’ll see if they worked as hard for their students as they do their image, then we would have some hope.

To suggest that some mysterious cadre of “union operatives” is behind this movement is just plain crazy. I live, and work in a City that I love precisely BECAUSE of its diversity, and I oppose St. HOPE because it fails us as a community when it ceases to become the melting pot that was and is the promise of PUBLIC education. Its not a union thing. It’s not about color. It’s about accountability. St. HOPE works on a different campus, on a smaller scale. All the Board needs to do is move them to a different facility, and let the citizens reclaim the Sac High Campus for the benefit of ALL.

I for one, have read the charter and have gone to board meetings regularly for the past year and a half. If you read the charter, they also say that they’ll have special ed students and English Language learner students. They also say they’ll reflect the demographics of the SCUSD and the former Sac Hi attendance area. They fail on ALL counts. The school was the most diverse in the dist. as a regular public school. It is now the LEAST diverse. It was supposed to help the children of Oak Park first. Over 50% of families in OP are ELL yet the school went from 30% ELL to less than 10%.The fact is, they DO NOT serve the students in the former Sac High attendance area many of whom are ELL and poor performing. The most at-risk are counseled out. KJ said on Oprah, if you aren’t on the college path, then this school isn’t for you. That’s a sure-fire way to ensure that the more difficult to educate students don’t show up at your door.

Someone forgot to tell Mr. Maya what an independent school is. As an independent charter, they are in essence it own school board and district. So SCUSD, did not have to list them as a school on the website or any other literature. But that is besides the point. St. Hope owes the district money, period. If St. Hope does not want to adhere to being an independent charter, then they should changed their status. Furthermore, what/who gave St. Hope the authority to move students from there campus to a high school charter campus? Should not that have gone before the board, or was a MOA restructured to allow this to happen? I want St. Hope to succeed, but enough is enough. Make Sac High a non-independent charter, while allowing St. Hope to run teaching operations only.

…the school continues to be significantly under enrolled five years after the charter was granted. Mr. Maya seems to underscore the claim that part of the attendance issue (and $ woes)is that Sac Charter is not a good option for kids who are reluctant students (those kids who may be there by “default” as he says). St. Hope displaced a comprehensive high school, one that was charged with educating all students–even those with no interest in college and those who tend to chafe under “strict” requirements. And that’s always the rub with public education: some kids are simply more difficult to educate than others. But we still have a commitment to them as a society. A college prep school intent on serving only motivated students is the St. Hope dream. Fine. Just not in place of a program for all children: special ed, ELLs, those with caring families and those with no one who nurtures them, kids intent on college and kids who haven’t figured it out yet.

Written by scusdobserver

November 22, 2008 at 4:03 pm

School Board Meeting Thursday, November 20

Agenda here

Two items of particular interest on the agenda Thursday night include a presentation on school closure and consolidation (Item 10.4)

and

Item 10.5 — outlines for a financial agreement between SCUSD and St. Hope.
For the advance copy of the presentation concerning the agreement, click here.

An able reader asks the following questions concerning St. Hope’s current indebtedness to SCUSD.

This is not consistent with how the district has treated other charters i.e. VAPAC.
Why wasn’t this addressed when the charter was renewed?
Does this mean that the SCUSD representative on the ST. HOPE board (SHPS) didn’t pay attention?

Written by scusdobserver

November 19, 2008 at 3:16 am

School Closure possibilities

In today’s Sacramento Bee, reports from last Thursday’s board meeting outline the imminent fact that SCUSD closures and consolidations are definitely on the horizon, but not without significant community input, according to the article.

Word has it that the following schools are being reviewed for closure and/or consolidation as they have low and declining enrollment:

Elementary & K-8 Schools

Alice Birney
Cesar Chavez
Collis P. Huntington
Freeport
Hollywood Park
Jedediah Smith
John Cabrillo
John D. Sloat
Maple
Susan B. Anthony
Theodore Judah
Thomas Jefferson
Washington
William Land

Middle Schools

John Still Middle

High Schools

American Legion
School of Engineering & Science

Charter Schools

Father Keith B. Kenny
Genesis Charter
George Washington Carver School of Arts and Science
The Met Sacramento
Sacramento New Technology High School

The article also states:

…the district is also talking with the city, UC Davis and California State University, Sacramento, about leasing parts of the Serna Center, the Marian Anderson Special Education Center, the Old Marshall Adult Education Center, the Fremont School for Adults and the Florin Technology Center. No properties will be sold.

Written by scusdobserver

November 10, 2008 at 5:39 pm

Mayor-elect Johnson has "already sat down with some of the superintendents"

In today’s Sacramento Bee, Kevin Johnson espouses his view on the current state of education in Sacramento:

Among his other priorities, said the former NBA star turned education reformer, would be improving schools, even though that’s not part of the mayor’s official job description.

“We have 100 some-odd schools in Sacramento,” he said. “Over the next year I am going to see if I can visit all of our schools. I have already sat down with some of the superintendents. I want to sit down with all of them. I want them to tell me what they would like to see from the mayor, how can I be helpful in terms of education. Because our city will never realize its potential if we don’t have great public schools. One of my goals is four or eight years from now, looking back, that the trajectory of our schools has increased when it comes to student achievement.”

In another part of today’s Bee, titled Advice for Mayor-elect Johnson, retiring school board member (and avid Johnson campaign supporter) Karen Young weighs in:

Education is the key to our city’s economic, social and moral success.

That’s absolutely critical. In order to do all of what he is saying, he has to understand what schools are going through. I think he can help schools understand they have to be competitive, they have to market themselves, and they don’t know how to do that. Bring in marketsavvy people who understand how to utilize their assets, whether it’s the buildings, the programs or the staffs. Through the city, or directly through the schools, it would help them achieve what they are trying to achieve with our students.

He has to use his political muscle, not only in politics, in the Legislature, but also with the foundation connections,the individual connections he has. I think it’s critical that he elevate the discussion to that level. He should continue his town hall forums to really engage our citizens.

What Kevin has to do is connect everyone. He has to rally the citizens, because they are complacent about our schools. They think things are OK. He needs to rally the business leaders, education leaders, and especially parents around the importance of education. He needs to talk about it. Talk, talk, talk. Locally, at forums, nationally, he needs to do that.

Written by scusdobserver

November 9, 2008 at 4:16 pm

SCUSD Board Meeting tonight

Agenda here

Of special note
Item 9.3
Facilities Planning, Resources and Opportunities
Asset Development, Utilization and Consolidation Strategies/Opportunities

Written by scusdobserver

November 6, 2008 at 10:45 pm

And the winners are…

The winners in the SCUSD School Board election are as follows:

Area 3
Donald Terry

Area 4
Gustavo Arroyo

Area 5
Diana Rodriguez

For complete election results visit this link.

Written by scusdobserver

November 5, 2008 at 3:00 pm