By Mary-Justine Lanyon
A mid-year update by Director of Educational Services Heather Dominguez on the Rim of the World Unified School District’s Local Control and Accountability Plan led to a frank discussion by the trustees of the needs of the district’s students.
“Math and reading are so important,” said Trustee Cindy Gardner. “We are struggling. We need to be cognizant of our accountability to our students.”
Pointing to chronic absenteeism, Gardner said that “the home life of some students makes me tear up. I understand there are barriers to getting kids to schools. What services can we provide to help them? We have to do something during the day while we have the students here.”
Looking at the D and F rates among students, Gardner noted that “we don’t have grade recovery in place. We have relegated almost half of our students to not being A-G eligible by their senior year. This is a crime. A child’s decision is being limited because maybe they needed intervention or didn’t get the right advice.”
As a student, said Trustee Scott Craft, “I struggled with reading in junior high – until I had a teacher who made me try harder.” He added that it was doubtful he would have completed high school “if it wasn’t for sports and the dynamic teachers I had. I completed A-G much to my surprise. My teachers pushed me.
“The school needs to be the place where kids come and get what they need,” Craft added. “We have a large population of kids whose needs we are not meeting. We have to capture the kids who aren’t meeting A-G and provide opportunities for them so they’ll want to come to school every day. We are not reaching students who struggle with why they have to be there every day.
“We should ask the students,” Craft said, “what they want out of life. What can we do better? Why aren’t we sitting down with kids and asking them about their interests? I don’t think we do that. As a teacher, I talked to kids all the time about what they wanted.”
“That’s where career exploration needs to be developed,” Gardner said.
“Scott and Cindy bring up excellent points about persistent issues,” said Trustee Jordan Zarate. “I think we are making great steps toward addressing some of these issues. Are we offering the right pathways?”
Zarate added that he appreciates Dr. Kimberly Fricker, the superintendent of schools, having each department create three-year plans. “For a lot of students, its extracurriculars that bring them to the finish line. We are working toward addressing the whole student,” Zarate said.
“The bottom line,” said President Bill Mellinger, “is that every teacher, every staff member matters. Every staff member has the ability to connect with a student, make them feel valued.”
“When you start peeling this onion,” said Dr. Fricker, “and look at the history of where Rim has been, where do we want to go? The question is, how are we going to get there? It’s a multi-pronged answer.