SCUSD Observer

Sacramento, California

Archive for the ‘Kit Carson Middle School’ Category

Improving the District, step by step…Teaching Citizenship

Last week the Sacramento Bee printed an article about Beth Tinker, now a 57-year-old pediatric nurse, who as a teenager was one of the plaintiffs in a seminal United States Supreme Court case concerning schools and democratic speech.

While the Bee focused on the person and the politics, it is actually the language of the Court’s opinion that warranted attention.  We talk a lot about what we want to transmit to children through education.  Scholastic aptitude and academic achievement are foremost.  But we also want our school system to impart certain skills and knowledge that will help our children grow and prosper throughout their lives.

Many education advocates discuss education in terms of the skills and knowledge that are relevant to the 21st century economy.   And economic security and prosperity are essential goals of the system.  But the Tinker case highlights another important facet of our education system.  Our schools train our children how to be active, participatory citizens in our local and national democratic communities.  The court’s opinion realizes a schoolhouse that teaches youth the skills and knowledge to contribute to our democracy.  And, this citizenship lesson is relevant still today.

The court finds three principles that our schools embody in teaching citizenship.  First, students are an integral part of our collective political community.  Children should engage in policy discussions.  Political arguments about leadership and community values necessarily include youth and children.  They can be taught pertinent facts and learn to articulate their opinions in light of them.  School children are fundamental to our national political dialogue.  Children are important members, and thought of as citizens who should concern themselves with pressing contemporary policy and political issues.  They are not second class persons when our community debates its collective future.  Political speech is safe in these young hands.

Second, democracy includes arguments about what is best for our community and its future.   Engagement in free speech brings forth a dialogue, which at times leads to disputes.  For children, especially teenagers, personal opinions are at the forefront of their existence and imbue their relationships.  These opinions exist and generate responses and disagreements from peers.   Democratic conversation is not necessarily quiet nor does it fail to provoke reaction.  Learning how to take part in robust discussion is central to acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary to become an active participant in our community.

Last, students must act responsibly in our democracy.   The student must respect the rights of others surrounding him or her.  Unavoidably, students come into contact with one anther, where identity, ideology and policy considerations lead to arguments about how best to advance certain public goals and goods.  Children must act and speak responsibly.  They must respect political dialogue.  They must interact and speak from knowledge and with purpose. Schools can educate children to speak sensibly and maturely with others.  They can teach children to respect differing opinions and points of view while not betraying the child’s own particular viewpoint.

The court in this case, then, teaches a great lesson about what our schools can and should be imparting to our children regarding democracy and public speech.  Schools can lead youth away from apathy and inaction and motivate them to act responsibility within our democratic community.  They teach youth to be a responsible part of our national dialogue and participate fairly with one another.  Moreover, the lessons learned in responsible speech will teach each child the skills and knowledge necessary for a healthy, vibrant country.  It is through trial and error and thereby growth that students develop skills utilized in the public sphere.  When our schools become active contributors to these lessons, this particularized knowledge becomes a part of the child’s day-to-day existence.  Our students learn to be good citizens, involved in their community and robust neighbors essential to the proper functioning of our body politic.

One fine example of this lesson occurs at Kit Carson Middle School.  This school offers a class where the skills and knowledge essential to our democratic community are taught.  The class focuses on leadership and active listening and participation around specific issues and problems.  Students take on various roles and debate in accordance with the viewpoints they inhabit.  Reasoning, active listening, and a focus on articulating one’s opinions buttressed by particular facts is practiced and honed.  The teacher takes an active role in the process, leading the students through the discussion and reminding them of the responsibility each has to treat one another and each point of view with courtesy, not contempt.

When I observed the class, the students were excited and energetic, engaged in the ongoing debate.  Hands flung in the air as quickly as the teacher could call on them.  A dialogue between the students took on a life of its own, with each student challenging the prior assertions of his or her classmate.  Students felt important and part of a debate that transcended the classroom.  The students challenged themselves as well, learning and internalizing the skills and knowledge necessary for future citizenship.

This class is but one example of how our school district can teach the skills and knowledge essential to our democracy.  These lessons are a direct product of the vision of our schools and classrooms the United States Supreme Court had in the case involving Beth Tinker.  As we weather these tough budgetary times, we must remember that our schools are the training ground for tomorrow’s leaders.  And leadership is a learned skill.  We must not fail to teach our school children how to engage in their community, because the future of Sacramento depends on it.


Written by jeffcuneo

May 12, 2010 at 8:13 pm

Community forum tonight at Kit Carson

Superintendent Raymond continues his series of meetings on proposed budget cuts tonight from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. at Kit Carson Middle School in East Sacramento.

Written by scusdobserver

March 11, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Have they just been wasting our time?

SCUSD Board Trustee Donald Terry raised an interesting question at last Thursday night’s board meeting. Specifically Terry wanted to know why “we are looking” at the Kit Carson Middle School/Sutter Middle school consolidation if that plan is “budget neutral.”

Like Terry, we would like to know what stands to be gained by merging Kit Carson and Sutter Middle Schools and why not even a hint of this proposal was put forth at recent community meetings. The first public mention of this plan was floated in a Sacramento Bee editorial last Sunday.

Additionally, why are Alice Birney, John Sloat, Lisbon and Thomas Jefferson Elementary schools on the chopping block for the first-round of closure? What do these schools have in common?

Except for Lisbon, all of these schools (including Kit Carson and Sutter) are mentioned for closing and/or consolidation in the original district-requested consultant report on “assets” –a report that was commissioned before the community engagement process began.

Which leads a thinking person to wonder if the board-initiated “listening” exercise was simply an elaborate sham. Was this yet another dishonest attempt to mockingly entertain “outside the box” thinking?

With all of the criteria (and added criteria) and matrices and drill downs and study areas and “looks” combined with the mountains and mountains of data, it STILL appears that the SCUSD Board is in danger of choosing the path of least resistance for budget remedies — school closure and teacher/staff layoffs.

So much for transparency.

East Sacramento Middle School Inequities…

Among other things that will be addressed at tonight’s board meeting is Superintendent Susan Miller ‘s plan to directly address the specific inequity between two middle schools in the center of the city, Sutter Middle School and Kit Carson Middle School.

The Sacramento Bee editorialized about it over the weekend:

…Sutter Middle and Kit Carson are “within a stone’s throw from each other” and have 1,600 students between them. But one has 1,200 students and the other has only 400. One is high-achieving, the other is struggling. So Miller proposes to create two schools of 800 and to blend staff.

Dissenting voices to the plan fear that the “blending” will fail, subsequently wrecking the superior Sutter experience.

In the meantime, another group of advocates are pushing to move the entire Sutter population to Kit Carson, chop down enrollment numbers, and turn Sutter into the long-debated and highly controversial (consent decree) high school for the East Sacramento neighborhoods.

Which begs the question…why do neighborhood folks advocate moving the entire Sutter program TO Kit Carson to satisfy the consent decree but do not favor replicating the Sutter program AT Kit Carson to satisfy middle school inequity?

Highlights from the Special Board Workshop of 2/12

Thoughts from a reporter in the field….

It was great see the “new” board members in action — a group of intelligent people trying to solve problems. Gustavo Arroyo thanked the gallery for attending, and invited us to chime in. Donald Terry advocated effectively for his constituents in Rancho Cordova, showing a good understanding of the issues particular to that community. Diana Rodriguez made a smart suggestion about ways to quantify the lower income students by means other than subsidized lunches. Electing our board members by ward is a great step forward.

The cost-cutting focus seems aimed primarily at staffing and class-size reduction with some big, scary numbers involved. Under DRAFT Plan A, 119 teaching positions would be dropped in elementary, 24 in middle, and 38 in high school. DRAFT Plan B would more than double the elementary teachers dropped to 234!! March 5th was the date given for more “firmness” in the numbers, but they are ghastly. A whole bunch of pink slips could be just around the bend.

As for facilities use and/or co-location, the staff suggestions seemed remarkably tame. Staff distributed a spreadsheet which implied that they are operating the right number of high schools for a district this size. Ellyne Bell sought some clarity on that point, but didn’t get it. Most of the ideas on the facilities side involved tinkering with elementary schools, and leasing Marian Anderson and possibly adding some more students to Kit Carson. Absent was a discussion about moving St. Hope to West Campus, and bringing the small schools under one roof.

The district appears to be leaning towards layoffs as the primary solution to balancing their budget.

Report by James Broderick

Recently in the News…

From the Sacramento Bee:
April 19
A suggested plan to place ninth graders from a new Sacramento City Unified high school on the campus of Kit Carson Middle School appears to have fallen flat.

April 11
It’s crunch time for Sac City’s “E-21” school program.

April 6
Sacramento parents say time’s too short to create new high school

March 30
List of area schools in Sacramento that are in Program Improvement because their test scores are not meeting No Child Left Behind targets.

Written by scusdobserver

April 22, 2008 at 11:12 pm