Category Archives: Education

Education Politics

Public-Private Efforts Bring Aviation Tech School to VVC

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By Brad Mitzelfelt
1st District Supervisor, San Bernardino

An educated and well-trained workforce is essential to attracting the types of business that will carry the High Desert economy into the future.

Aviation is one of those industries, and Southern California Logistics Airport has already proven itself to be the regional economic engine we imagined after the U.S. Air Force left in the early 1990s.

Providing a ready supply of qualified aircraft technicians makes SCLA even more attractive to aviation companies. One of the most successful public-private education efforts has been the Southern California Logistics Airport School of Aviation Technology.

One of my main economic development goals was to see the school become self-sufficient. The program is now fully integrated with Victor Valley College.

Students who have graduated with their full airframe and powerplant certification from the Federal Aviation Administration are already being snapped up by area companies. Aviation technicians earn a good middle-class wage with experienced technicians able to earn six figures.

New students will be invited to begin the aviation training program in the Spring 2012 Semester. Students who are interested in the program will now be eligible for college credits and financial aid in addition to meeting the stringent licensing requirements of the Federal Aviation Administration.

The program’s transition was brokered with support from my First District office by the Victor Valley College Foundation, whose leaders remained involved with the Victor Valley Aviation Education Consortium during the independent start up of the school. The Foundation’s involvement in securing a grant that allowed the college to provide funding for a contracted training program through the school reopened the dialog about a college takeover. Throughout the past year, the foundation has led the partnership between the college and the Aviation Consortium to that end.

“The foundation was uniquely positioned to make this transition happen.” said Dr. Christopher O’Hearn, Superintendent / President. “They are truly a valuable partner for the college and make great things happen for our student’s every day.”

The process was also bolstered significantly by support from my First District office and the Southern California Logistics Airport Authority (SCLAA). My office secured funding from the County of San Bernardino to establish an endowment that will partially support operations of the training program at Victor Valley College and provide scholarships for its students every year. The SCLAA offered to continue providing facilities at no cost for the school, which reduced some of the burden for the college to take on the training program amidst its most challenging budget situation yet.

Establishing the school as a self-sufficient program has been a difficult but worthwhile effort with benefits for the entire regional economy. The pay-off will be apparent for the new technicians who will have high quality, long-term jobs, and for the local aviation industry which has access to highly trained workers.

Education is everyone’s business and the aviation technology school is a great example of how private industry and government can work together for the betterment of the local economy.


Victor Valley College’s 50th Anniversary

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By Bill Greulich, Public Information Officer
President’s Office

The year 2011 represents a milestone in the history of Victor Valley College. It is the 50th Anniversary of the college and its service to students. During these five decades, the college has experienced many changes. The most significant change is the growth of student enrollments. Student population has grown from 500 full-time students to more than 13,500 individual students with some taking a minimum schedule of three credits to others carrying a full load of 15 credits of more. This growth has subjected the college to many major challenges, chief among them, is the demand for more classes and classrooms space to serve the need. This need is being addressed with the construction of new facilities in Apple Valley and the future expansion of the college into a second campus in Hesperia.

The second major challenge is the need to maintain and upgrade eroding infrastructure,roadways, parking lots, and unsafe, inadequate access to and from the campus.

Fortunately, these concerns were addressed in 2008, when the citizens of the High Desert voted to approve a local bond measure (JJ) to assist the college to build new facilities, upgrade infrastructure, and repair or replace parking lots and roadways. Also, Redevelopment funds (RDA’s) were set aside to address these issues. Today, the college is taking action.

This important work is now underway. Student safety, cost savings, and sustainability played key roles in all of the decisions regarding the projects outlined in this report. The projects include roadway repair, parking lot replacement, energy management, and beautification/sustainability.

VVC Campus Wide Roadway and Parking Lot Replacement

Over the summer, the college completed the first major overhaul of roadways and parking lots since the current campus was built in 1964. These upgrades include a safer, more uniform transition for student from the major thoroughfares to and from campus,repairs tocrumbling parking lots and roadways and redirects the flow of traffic that has been a concern for campus and community officials for years. Working with local architectural and engineering firms, the VVC Facilities Construction department, traffic consultants, the City of Victorville, the VVC Campus Police, and the Facilities Committee, VVC now offers students and the community a more logical solution to trafficcongestion. The entrance to campus at Jacaranda, Fish Hatchery andFrancesca roads have all been redesigned and engineered tominimize congestion and provide safer access to and from the campus. The redesign has substantially reduced the backup of cars on the major arteries bordering the campus. The project also included the complete replacement of parking lots 1, 2, and 3; new construction of an addition to parking lot #16; and replacement of the “loop road” from Fish Hatchery Road at the entrance to the maintenance yard around to the main entrance at Jacaranda.

Energy Management System

The second major economic development at VVC is the Energy Efficiency Project. This project will accomplish three major goals. First, the project will manage all mechanical systems with the use of computer programs that are design to control energy usage throughout the campus. Next, it will tie the Allied Health Building to the central plant for air handling. The final element of the Energy Efficiency Project is the replacement of all campus lighting with more energy efficient alternatives. This system will save the college thousands of dollars much the same as the solar field that is now saving the college a third of its energy costs.

Campus Beautification and Sustainability

The beautification project runs from and encompasses the eastside of the main entrance to the west side of the marquee. It stretches from the border of the lake and those buildings located in this front position facing Bear Valley Road. A small portion of this project also includes the border of the property that connects to a major street next to the campus. The benefit to the campus and the community lies in its ability reduce water usage, lower maintenance costs, and provide an ascetically pleasing, endurable, sustainable desert landscape that requires no upgrades for decades to come. The project also provides a standardized material list for trees, shrubs, inorganic material, and site furnishings to create a uniform campus look and theme.

The cost of these projects is $2.1 million for roads and parking lots, $1.8 million for energy efficiency and $614,000 for sustainability and beautification.

Much of the work has been and will be provided by local contractors and labor. These projects, when completed, should have an economic effect of nearly $14 million dollars for our local community.



Full STEAM for the High Desert: What Local Leaders are Doing to Make Education the High Desert’s # 1 Economic Priority

Published by:

By Dale Marsden, Ed.D. Superintendent
Victor Elementary School District

The statistics are startling: About one in five high school students (21.6%) drop out before their senior year; less than six out of ten who do graduate from high school actually attend community college; and if they do go, less than 40% of the high desert population is CSU/UC eligible. (Oh, and by the way, if you want to guess when the last time was that a high school diploma could land you a job to provide for your family, the answer is at the end of this article.) At the end of the day, when the rubber meets the real world of work, less than 11% of adults in the high desert have a BA or higher degree. Following interviews with dozens of political, business, education, and community leaders, everyone is finally in agreement on one point: It hurts bad enough!

Echoing recent comments from John Husing, the Inland Empire’s leading economist, if we are going to turn our local economy from “survive to thrive,” we must first address the quality of our educational system to ensure a prepared and highly skilled workforce to meet the demands of our 21st Century. We cannot expect to address the larger issues of global competition, nor hope to sustain America as the leading nation in innovation and creativity, without looking first at our own backyard. We must engage the students and adults in our community in rigorous, relevant content that causes authentic preparation for the actual world of work. Call it paradigm shift, if you will, as we begin to think of our schools as our community’s largest employment agencies. If we are going to turn the economic tide and avoid Einstein’s definition of insanity, “Doing the same thing and expecting different results,” we must act cohesively. In short, the level of urgency of our collective community response is directly correlated to our pocketbook!

In his latest book, Education Nation (2010), Milton Chen, executive director of The George Lucas Educational Foundation, calls us to,

“Imagine an ‘Education Nation,’ a learning society where the education of children and adults is the highest national priority, on par with a strong economy, high employment and national security. Where resources from public and private sources fund a ‘ladder of learning’ for learners of all ages, from pre-K through ‘gray.’ Where learners take courses through the formal institutions of high-quality schools and universities and also take advantage of informal experiences offered through museums, libraries, churches, youth groups, and parks as well as via the media.”

Similarly, as shared by local corporate leader, Eric Schmidt, Exquadrum, Vice President & COO, The Washington Post commentary for August 27, 2011, titled, “Science and tech firms need to play a bigger role in preparing the future workforce,” charged local educational institutions to “seek out industry leaders who can prepare students for the workplace, especially for careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.” Reinventing our school system as a community-based approach is no easy task.

Yet, this is exactly the response several of our local business and community leaders have taken through their shared commitment to a Call to Action for the High Desert: STEAM 2020. Working under the auspices of the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools Alliance for Education, over fifty local businesses, schools, community, and faith-based organizations are rallying efforts to meet a new goal for the high desert: By 2020, every child and adult in the Victor Valley will be prepared for the 21st Century Workforce by achieving their high school diploma concurrently with their community college degree (or vocational, trade or technical school equivalent certificate) in a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Applied Arts or Math) related field.

We are calling this our “BHAG” – Big Hairy Audacious Goal. It is certainly not for the faint in heart, nor is it a goal that can be entered into lightly. Earlier this month, with the assistance of National Baldrige Examiner Ruth Miller, local political, school, medical, faith-based, business, and sector leaders gathered to commit to this goal and they are determined to engage in specific action to ensure this goal is accomplished. In addition to representation from Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon’s and Senator Sharon Runner’s offices, the attendance list was quite impressive. Following is a partial list of those in attendance for the Call to Action:

• Assemblyman Steve Knight, 36th Assembly District

• Ryan McEachron, Mayor, City of Victorville

• Doug Robertson, City Manager, City of Victorville

• Michele Spears, CEO, Victorville Chamber of Commerce

• Robert Lovingood, President, ICR Staffing Services, Inc., and President, Board of Directors, Victorville Chamber of Commerce

• Dr. Beth Higbee, Assistant Superintendent, San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools

• Dr. Christopher O’Hearn, Supt./President, Victor Valley Community College

• Joseph W. Brady, CCIM, SIOR, President, The Bradco Companies and Trustee for the Victor Valley Community College

• Chris Piercy, Director, K16 Bridge Program

• Rev. Dr. David Denson, Jr., Pastor/Founder, Burning Bush Baptist Church

• Dr. Dale Marsden, Superintendent, Victor Elementary School District

• Dr. Gary Elder, President, Board of Trustees, Victor Elementary School District

• Elvin Moman, Superintendent, Victor Union High School District

• Mike Hayhurst, Executive Director, Excelsior Education Center

• Tom Hoegerman, Superintendent, Apple Valley Unified High School District

• Rick Piercy, President/CEO, Lewis Center for Educational Research

• Leslie Rodden, Director of Higher Educ. & Work Force Development, Alliance for Education, San Bernardino County Supt. of Schools

• Bill and Linda Scott, President/CEO, Scott Turbon Mixer, Inc.

• Regina W. Bell, President/CEO, Gi & Associates

Since our first meeting date, this group has been coordinating efforts to act urgently and responsively to achieve STEAM 2020. Each of us, avoiding our laundry list of excuses, is working to strategically identify barriers to achieving our goal, and agreeing to focus on the “ONE THING” that we will do to make our goal for the high desert a reality. If you are a key stakeholder in the high desert’s economic success and are interested in being a part of this conversation and action, visit and get onboard, because we are “Full STEAM Ahead for the High Desert.”

The last time a high school diploma could land you a high-paying job? 1984!

Dr. Dale Marsden is the superintendent of the Victor Elementary School District and member of the Executive Board for the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools Alliance for Education, and High Desert STEAM Region Lead. For more information, please email him directly at

Education General

The Lewis Center a Strong Educational Foundation

Published by:

By Rick Piercy
CEO & President of the Lewis Center for Educational Research

Across from my house a school is under construction, and for the past several months I’ve watched as earth was removed, returned, compacted, smoothed and leveled to exact specifications. It was dug up again as conduit was laid, rebar placed, and footings poured. It has been months of exacting work after countless months of planning, engineering, and review. In the end the foundation that has been so meticulously laid will be hidden from view. It will be covered with walls, floors, roofing, and furniture, yet by all accounts it is the most important part of the building; on this all else will be measured. If the foundation lacks integrity the building’s integrity will come into question. If it isn’t square the rest of the structure will not be straight. And if an earthquake hits while full of children, it will not be strong enough to protect those inside.

It’s true that we don’t think much about the foundation of a school, hospital, or even our house, but they are obviously so important. Likewise, most of us don’t think deeply about the foundation of our nation. We talk about the strength of a nation being its people; we use cliche sound bites: like our children are our future and needing a well-educated workforce. But few of us look at the importance of the national foundation of the American educational system. There is debate, criticism, letters to the editor, and a thousand self-serving solutions, but very few places where carefully planned solutions are being tested and refined. One such place is the Lewis Center for Educational Research.

Those of you reading this may be doing so out of curiosity. Why would this article appear in the “High Desert Report”, an economic quarterly? At this point you may feel guilty and think you need to get back to the important news in the report. But stay with me, this may be more relevant than you think. The analogy of a building’s foundation is certainly apropos to many of the things you do in your normal workday, as well as the way we educate the country’s children.

Today’s educational system is built on a foundation laid over 100 years ago during the Industrial revolution. Think of today’s builders using 100 year old technology and materials from the early1900’s. Think of them going out and taking anyone off the street to work on the project and pouring foundations with a large group of laborers hand-mixing cement and transporting it in wheel barrows. Our education system was designed using the work of Frederick Winslow Taylor, born in 1856. He is considered the father of scientific management and a leader of the Efficiency Movement, which brought us the assembly line. Think about our schools. Each classroom is a different stage of the assembly line. Children are moved from room to room, from kindergarten to twelfth grade. They enter school not based on maturation or ability but age. Children in our system are not treated like unique, one-of-a-kind individuals but as widgets; something to be shaped to look like every other widget on the line. That system worked for the industrial movement. Henry Ford didn’t have to worry about child labor laws and needed unskilled, uneducated workers. As you know, that is not the case today.

So what can be done to change the system? Is it hopeless? Have so many special interest groups high-jacked the system that our only hope is the complete collapse of America’s schools? We at the Lewis Center and our two laboratory schools don’t think so. In fact we have the audacity to believe that we can change the world and have been doing so a little at a time for over 25 years.

It may certainly sound conceited to say that a small organization in the Town of Apple Valley would think that its work with 2,000 students could change 100 years of entrenched government bureaucracy, but we do. The Lewis Center and its two charter schools, the Norton space and Aeronautics Academy in San Bernardino and the Academy for Academic Excellence in Apple Valley, Provide a wonderful opportunity for us to test and evaluate the latest brain research, pedagogy, best practices and techniques. It is where we look at the effectiveness of technology in the education process and also look at reducing the cost of education and maximizing the return on investment.

The Lewis Center also operates programs that reach students across the United States and around the world. Our partnership with NASA allows us to control and operate three radio telescopes at the Deep Space Network at Goldstone, located on Fort Irwin near Barstow. Through our Mission Control Center in Apple Valley, Students as young as Kindergarten operate a million pound, nine story high radio telescope from their classroom and gather data for NASA scientists on real scientific projects. Our K16 Bridge program is providing over 100,000 students with the tools to take charge of their education and prepare for careers and higher education. Almost 300,000 students have traveled with their classmates and teachers on fieldtrips to our campus on the Mojave River.

The students at the Academy for Academic Excellence, our oldest school at 14 years, are providing proof that what we are doing makes a difference. Last year’s graduating class was comprised of 96 students with 100% graduating. Five went into the military, well prepared in our nationally award winning Air Force JROTC program, a program that 27% of our high school students participate in. The other 91 students were accepted into two and four year colleges and universities, earning $1.74 million dollars in scholarships. You might think that these students were selected into our school for their academic prowess. Not so. All or our students are selected by random lottery, and in fact we have a high percentage of students with special needs.

What we are doing is working. The model we have developed continues to be refined and revolutionary change is right at the tipping point. How do we push it over? How do we change America’s educational system? How do we change the world? By allowing the wonderful technology of the twenty-first century to virtually tie children, teachers, parents and leaders like you into a nationwide community of revolutionary change with the use of networking and telecommunications. I invite you to be part of this movement, help build a foundation for educational excellence, and America will be stronger for it. Visit us on the web at:

If you would like to receive the full edition of the Bradco High Desert Report, our quarterly newsletter, please click on the link:

Education General

San Bernardino County Schools Preparing Students for the 21st Century Global Community

Published by:

By Gary S. Thomas, Ed.D.
County Superintendent

As I start my first full term as San Bernardino County superintendent, I remain inspired by the teaching and learning that takes place in classrooms throughout our communities to prepare our students for this world. I am appreciative to county voters for their confidence and humbled to serve another four years. I am moved by the dedication and collaboration of so many to see that all of our students have access to high quality and innovative educational opportunities in which learning can flourish. Our region, including the High Desert, should be encouraged by the tremendous strides made by students, staff, and families to raise student performance, close achievement gaps, and improve dropout rates. Educators in our county remain dedicated to overcoming the impediments our schools, students, and families face, and seizing the opportunities before us with boldness and renewed sense of purpose and direction. We are committed to building a common vision in San Bernardino County to prepare all of our students to take their places as productive, contributing members of a 21st century global community. Let’s envision the future of what public education can be and what it can do.

The Future For Public Schools In 21st Century

In an interview for Edutopia, futuristic author Alvin Toffer offers us a glimpse into his vision of public schools in the future. Schools are open 24 hours a day. They are integrated into the community. Different kids arrive at different times. The bells don’t just ring all at the same time. That’s because the children are different. They have different potentials. Teachers work with non-teachers. Teachers alternate working in schools and in the business world. Local businesses have offices in the schools. Technology is infused into every aspect of the environment. Curriculum is integrated across the disciplines.

Improving Student Performance

As we look toward the future, it’s important to note our progress to date. Schools in San Bernardino County made notable gains in academic achievement and outpaced the state average in terms of growth last year on California’s measure of school performance, the Academic Performance Index (API). Recently, we received some outstanding news concerning county schools who are being recognized for Title I Academic Achieving honors. Seven of our 14 recipients reside in the High Desert. They are Sycamore Rocks Elementary, Apple Valley Unified; Hinkley Elementary/Middle and Skyline North Elementary, Barstow Unified; Cypress School of the Arts, Hesperia Unified; Sixth Street Prep and Village Elementary, Victor Elementary School District; and University Prep, Victor Valley Union High. These honors came on the heels of news that Sixth Street Prep and University Prep had been selected as National Blue Ribbon schools, a distinction that only 12 county schools have ever achieved.

Addressing the Access and Achievement Gap

This past school year, there were 10 schools from our county that worked hard to exit Program Improvement (PI), which is the federal intervention for schools that do not meet their accountability measurements for two consecutive years. Two of those schools – Friendly Hills Elementary and Joshua Tree Elementary in the Morongo Unified School District – were from the High Desert.

The dichotomy for us is that three county schools celebrated the fact that they reached the state standard of 800 for the first time, but at the same time also fell into Program Improvement for not meeting federal targets. All totaled countywide, seven 800 schools were placed in PI last year, a dubious first. It’s a mixed message when schools can be deemed successful on the one hand but labeled failing on the other.

In terms of closing the achievement gap, there was very encouraging growth measured by Hispanic and African American subgroups of county students – both were above state averages for those meeting growth targets. Hispanic students were three points higher than state averages at 74 percent. African American students in the county were five points higher than the state averages for those who met their growth targets at 68 percent. In addition, socioeconomically disadvantaged students in the county finished higher than their peers statewide by 1 percent with 71 percent meeting their API growth targets. We celebrate the growth and accomplishments of all of our schools and districts on academic performance indicators.

The Future Of High Schools

Improving dropout and college-going rates in San Bernardino County has been at the forefront of our work. When we envision the future for our students, region, state and nation, we know we’ve got to step-up our growth at every level in order to be competitive, viable and successful. In the most recent data reported by the state, county schools have made improvements in our dropout rates decreasing from 22.5 percent for 2007-08 to 21.6 percent in 2008-09. Meanwhile, the state dropout rate increased from 18.9 percent to 21.5 percent. Not only is San Bernardino County moving in the right direction, we are bucking the state trend!

Three years ago when the first set of data came out, the dropout numbers were abysmal for our county – 26.3 percent of our high school students were leaving over four-year periods. That ranked us fifth from the bottom among California’s 58 counties. As our dropout rates have improved over the past two years, San Bernardino County has jumped 15 spots in the state rankings. While it’s better, it still is not where our students need to be to make our area more attractive to employers and businesses, and it’s certainly not where our students need to be in order to be prepared for a global economy.

A Call to Action – Everyone Counts

Reducing dropout rates and increasing high school graduates is the goal of the Call to Action – Everyone Counts initiative. Already, since this partnership of educators, business, labor, government, community and faith-based stakeholders formed 18 months ago, we’ve seen improvement in countywide dropout rates. Key research shows that effective dropout prevention and intervention strategies are systems of support for all students that include school, family, and community efforts and ultimately, districts and schools are the architect when designing what programs work best to target student populations. One district that stepped up to pilot some of the research-based Call to Action strategies is Barstow Unified, and we are pleased to be able to support its efforts. While the district has great challenges to address in regards to its dropout rates, in the past year alone, Barstow Unified saw a 5.2 percent decrease in its dropout rate.

Early Assessment Program

High school graduation and college readiness are connected, whether a student enters into community college or the University of California/Cal State University systems. In 2008-09, 22.4 percent more high school seniors in San Bernardino County graduated with UC/CSU required courses from the prior year. These numbers show significant strides. Ensuring that high school graduates on a college path are truly ready to succeed in college is the goal of the Early Assessment Program (EAP).

The 11th grade assessment is designed to give high school students an early indication of college readiness in English language arts and math, and to avoid incoming college students’ need for remediation. A student who is deemed by the program to be college-ready will be exempt from taking the UC/CSU placement tests and can enroll directly into college level classes upon admission. Working with our school districts, community colleges, Cal State San Bernardino, Cal Poly Pomona and UC Riverside, we are working with school leaders to continue to increase student participation in the EAP.

Additionally, our office is working with Chaffey Joint Union High School District and Cal State San Bernardino to develop a pilot for students who do not pass EAP in their junior year, providing high school counselors and teachers with a gauge for course placement. In this era of limited resources, envision a future where high schools, community colleges, and universities align coursework, teacher training, tests, and college entrance expectations so students are prepared, at graduation, for the next stage of their education.

Alliance for Education

There can’t be a conversation about a vision of schools for the future and not touch on the need for graduates, teachers and professionals in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – or what’s commonly referred to as STEM. County Schools’ Alliance for Education continues to grow and expand efforts in developing STEM- focused programs in elementary through post-secondary levels across the county. This year’s expansion has involved increasing elementary-level participation in STEM-focused activities. STEM programs of study have expanded to 10 districts and 19 school sites with over 1,500 enrolled students.

Real world learning experiences not only make learning relevant for students, it also inspires and excites them. Nearly 500 middle school students from eight school districts had their engines revved up for the day at the second Auto Club Speedway Math and Science Day in Fontana in March. They had an opportunity to hear from Dave Rogers – he’s the crew chief for driver Kyle Busch- and got the opportunity to meet Rutledge Wood of Speed TV. But students, some of whom were on spring break and still attended the event, also got excited about conducting math and science labs on speed, acceleration, mass, force, and friction. Talk about relevance!

Regional Occupational Programs

We’ve moved toward great clarity in the education community that all students need to graduate high school with preparation for post-secondary opportunities—whether that be a four-year institution, a community college, training for a career or directly into the workforce. I’m a strong believer in Regional Occupational Programs (ROP) and their role in the future of our public schools. Data shows that ROP courses reinforce academic standards, provide relevance, and help to reduce the dropout rate. Over 35,000 high school students were served through the three county ROP during the 2009-10 school year. Funding for these programs is precious and crucial to our economy, and we all need to fight the good fight to protect it.

Student Services

Equally critical to districts, families, and communities are our Student Services programs, as they serve the most vulnerable of student populations. I am proud to say the deliveries of services in these programs are models statewide. The California Department of Education selected our Juvenile Court Schools’ Special Education Records Collection System as a statewide model. The office was awarded a grant to present the system to county offices throughout the state.

Because of the variety of student populations served in our alternative and special education classrooms, a variety of innovative technological solutions are being used to support teaching and learning. Audio enhancement systems help deaf and hard-of-hearing students understand verbal communications while iPods and iPads are used to visually enforce teaching strategies with visual learners in special education classrooms. In our Juvenile Court Schools programs, on-line college courses are helping students not only get back on track for high school graduation but bound for college.

School Safety

Through collaborative school safety programs, we have a number of prevention and intervention programs in place as safety nets to catch at-risk students. It’s troubling – children today are exposed to a myriad of societal challenges and negative external factors. Yet when our students come to school each morning, the challenges and influences in their day-to-day lives do not get left outside the campus gate. Even so, the majority of students do attend school with a willingness to learn and with attitudes of understanding and acceptance.

We have built partnerships and shared tools and resources in this county to ensure the safety of schools through our Law Enforcement Education Partnership and the Gangs and Drugs Task Force. I want to acknowledge districts and communities in our county for steps taken to calm recent incidents of violence and bring about discussion and healing in their communities and on school campuses. These tragic events deeply sadden and touch us all, and we grieve for the families and communities directly affected. District administration, school staff, board members, government officials, local law enforcement, church leaders, parents, and students have all been willing to band together and lift their community back up. Lack of knowledge and understanding can bring about fear, distrust, and intolerance, often times at a great cost. We must continually envision schools without prejudice, intolerance, and bullying and strive for that vision. The future of our children is dependent upon it.

State Education Budget

While legislators in Sacramento tussle with the issue of what may become of five-year tax extensions that could shore up $12 billion to cover roughly half of the state’s $25.4 billion shortfall, county districts are making difficult decisions concerning their 2011-12 budgets.

We’ve heard these stats before, but they’re worth repeating: $18 billion in cuts over the last 3 budget years; $1 out of every $5 going to districts is now being deferred, that’s 20 percent of revenue for our cash-strapped districts; also over the course of 3 years – 30,000 teachers and 10,000 classified employees laid off statewide; 174 districts in qualified or negative status statewide and eight of 33 districts self-certified as qualified at first interim in our county.

California schools have one of shortest school years in developed countries, and there’s concern it could get shorter. Plus, our students sit in the most crowded classrooms in the nation. If the tax extensions are not approved, K-12 schools stand to lose $2 billion in funding at a minimum.

California’s disinvestment in education is choking the economic engine of this state and breaking the promise of opportunity for our students. Until the legislature can agree that a disinvestment in public education robs our students of the opportunities to prepare them for productive citizenry; and until this state delivers a school finance system that adequately funds our schools, I encourage us to rally resources and work toward a common vision where access, equality, and opportunities abound for every student in San Bernardino County. An investment in education is an investment in our common future.

Envisioning The Future

In a time of shrinking resources, it challenges us to take courageous steps to not only improve but to rethink our public schools. I look forward to the next four years of working together. We have a great deal of hard work ahead of us; and we cannot do it without a vision – with a common vision for the future.

With a common vision, more of our students will be successful in school. With a common vision, more of our students will graduate prepared for work and college. With a common vision, our schools will be safer and our communities will grow stronger. With a common vision, we will graduate highly trained, skilled employees and get this economy back on its feet. With a common vision, families will thrive and communities will prosper. With a common vision, we can achieve equity and excellence for all students. Envision the future.

If you would like to receive the full edition of the Bradco High Desert Report, our quarterly newsletter, please click on the link:

Education General

High Desert Schools Make Progress On State Tests

Published by:

By Dan Evans, Communications Manager
San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools

With the start of the new school year under way, this is also the annual time of the year when public schools receive grades for how students, schools and districts do on statewide assessment tests. In August, the California Department of Education released its yearly results for Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR), the grade-level tests in core subject areas that second-graders to 11th-graders take. In addition, the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) results showed that county 10th-graders were at their highest-ever passing rates for the two portions of that assessment. Just recently in September, the Accountability Progress Report, which has three components grading how our schools are doing overall, also was released and showed that our public schools continue to make growth in their academic achievement.

These assessments tell us as educators and allow us to present to the public empirical data how our students and schools are doing. In this issue of the Bradco Report, I will highlight how our county schools, particularly those in the High Desert, did on the assessments and what those scores mean to the long-term economic vitality of our region.

Standardized Testing and Reporting

The STAR measures how well students in Grades 2-11 are doing in learning their standards for English language arts, math, science, and social studies. The results give parents one form of feedback on how well their children are doing in school. These results also give our teachers and schools a gauge to assess how well their students are absorbing the content standards in our schools.

The STAR rates student performance in five categories – advanced, proficient, basic, below basic, and far below basic – depending on how well they scored on their subject tests. The main goal of the STAR is to have all students — regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or language/learning barriers – to reach proficiency levels in each of their subject areas. It’s also important to see growth for students, in terms of their individual assessments. For example, although a student may not be proficient in third-grade math, if he moved from below basic to basic from second to third grade, that would show progress.

While these assessments give us a snapshot of how our students are performing, they do not give us a comprehensive evaluation of how they are doing in school. It’s important for parents to work collaboratively with their children’s teachers to check their progress on all facets of their schoolwork to give them a complete picture of students’ academic progress.

Countywide, we continue to see incremental improvement across the board in both English language arts (ELA) and math. In ELA, in nine of the 10 grade levels, there was at least 1 percent of improvement in scores for students reaching proficiency levels from this year to last year. It was also particularly noteworthy, that we saw a narrowing of the achievement gap between our Hispanic and African American students and their White peers in ELA. In math, the same trends held up: Proficiency levels increased in all but one grade from 2-7, and there also were increases for secondary courses, such as algebra, algebra II, and secondary math as a whole. Again, there was a decrease in the achievement gap among our main ethnic subgroups, as well as with our socioeconomically disadvantaged students.

These are all positive trends that we would like to see continue, despite the fact that as a county we still trail state averages in most areas of proficiency.

In the High Desert, it’s difficult to come up with trends across the region, but here are a few snapshots of the progress that some districts are making:

• Victor Elementary was above county proficiency averages in ELA in Grades 2-5. It also bettered county averages in Grades 2-3 in math, while matching county averages in Grades 4-5.

• Hesperia Unified second-graders and sophomores in algebra II finished above the county averages in math proficiencies. In ELA, second- and ninth-graders finished above the county proficiency averages, while sixth-graders matched the county average.

• Barstow Unified fourth-graders had some of the highest proficiency averages in math with 74 percent being proficient. Fifth- and sixth-graders also finished above county averages. In ELA, second- and eighth-graders finished above the county averages.

California High School Exit Exam

All the countywide trends for the exit exam or CAHSEE continue to be positive. The exam is conducted in two subjects – English language arts (ELA) and math.

Sophomores in the class of 2012 took the exam for the first time during the 2009-10 school year. The passage rates in both subjects were at record-highs for county students: 78 percent passed in ELA and 76 percent in math.

Passing both parts of the exit exam is a requirement for high school graduation in the state. According to California Department of Education statistics, more than 94 percent of high school seniors statewide in the class of 2010 passed both portions of the test to meet the graduation requirement.

Obviously, this test has a strong bearing on the economic well-being of our region. Students need the strong foundation afforded with their high school degree to build upon their college-readiness or entry into the workforce. Certainly, any senior who cannot pass high school because of the exam or any other reason is a reason for concern.

Traditionally, this region trails the state in both graduation and college-going rates. Without a well-trained and highly educated workforce, the region will suffer in its efforts to attract high-paying jobs and the industries that demand highly skilled workers.

So even though we have had improvement in our exit exam passage rates, there is plenty of work left to do – and not just for our students who are graduating from high school. We do need a higher college-going rate, as well as better-prepared students who are choosing to enter the workforce.

Late last year, our County Schools office issued a “Call to Action” to educators in the field and our broad base of community partners – those who are business leaders, as well as others in labor, government, education, community and faith-based groups, and most importantly parents and students. We are focusing on developing strategies and resources to help lower countywide dropout rates and increase graduation rates. We need our community’s expertise, insights, and experiences to tackle these challenges.

In the High Desert, here’s a snapshot of how several districts have performed on the statewide exit exam:

• Apple Valley Unified made some of the largest gains countywide in students’ passing rates in both ELA and math. With 78 percent of its 10th-graders passing the math portion of the test, that was a five-point improvement on last year’s scores. At 82 percent passage rate in ELA, it increased four points in a year.

• Snowline Unified students have some of the county’s highest passage rates in both ELA and math. With 85 percent of students passing ELA in 10th grade, Snowline students are not only well ahead of the countywide passage rates but also ahead of the state passage rate as well (81 percent). This holds true for math too, with an 82 percent passage rate in the district compared to 81 percent statewide.

• For the Victor Valley Union High School District, it recorded positive gains in both ELA and math. At 72 percent passage rate in math, that was two points higher than in 2009. In ELA, the 72 percent passage rate was a one-point increase over last year’s test scores.

Accountability Progress Report


The Accountability Progress Report is the annual statewide report card for how well our schools and districts are performing on content standards testing. The report has three components – the Academic Performance Index (API), which is the state’s measurement tool for schools and districts; Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), the federal benchmark for schools and districts; and Program Improvement, an intervention program for schools and districts that receive Title I federal funding and do not meet their AYP targets for two consecutive years.

Starting with API, a record number of schools countywide – 169 – have reached or surpassed the state accountability measurement standard. Nearly one-quarter of the schools (42 in total) that have scored 800 or better on the API are in the High Desert. Apple Valley Unified (nine schools) and Victor Elementary (eight schools) lead districts in the region with the most top performing schools.

The API scores schools and districts on a scale of 200 to 1,000 with the target of reaching 800 or more. This year, countywide 22 more schools reached the 800 level, including 12 from the High Desert.

Countywide, the API grew 14 points to a record-high of 746. There are districts in the High Desert with scores above the county API. Those districts are Apple Valley Unified (770), Helendale (753), Morongo Unified (759), Oro Grande (829), Silver Valley Unified (749), Snowline Joint Unified (797) and Victor Elementary (809).

But there also were several High Desert districts that showed tremendous growth in their API scores this year. Topping the list was Barstow Unified (28 points of growth), followed by Oro Grande (26 points), Hesperia (17 points) and Apple Valley (15 points).

There also was big growth individually by schools. Some of the top growth schools in the county reside in the High Desert. This year, those are Apple Valley High School (67 points), Barstow Junior High (64 points) and Summit Leadership Academy in Hesperia (63 points).

The API is also used as a component for measuring the federal Adequate Yearly Progress or AYP. The difference between the two measures is that API looks at the growth or progress that students and schools are making, while AYP presets performance benchmarks in both English language arts and math that all students will have to achieve by 2014.

There is a growing disconnect between the two assessment tools. This year for the first time, there were seven county schools that were at or above the state benchmark of 800 that also fell into Program Improvement (PI), because they did not meet their AYP standards for two consecutive years.

In addition, more than half of the Title I schools in the county (54 percent) are now in Program Improvement, and an additional 98 schools could fall into PI next year if they do not meet their escalating AYP targets during this year’s testing.

It’s disconcerting that under the state’s measurement system a school could be considered high achieving for reaching its growth targets, but be considered unsuccessful under the federal measurement. It’s confusing to parents and the public, delivering a mixed message that clouds our understanding of just how well schools and districts are performing.

It’s important for parents and the public to understand that whatever measurement tool they are using to gauge the academic achievement of an individual student, it is just one snapshot in the overall mosaic of student performance. The most important connection is between individual students and their teachers. Having a student engaged in learning in the classroom and being able to attend school daily are important for long-term academic success.

Keeping students in school and on the path to college readiness or career preparation will help provide our region with the workforce that employers demand to meet their needs in our global economy.

Education General

Victor Valley College Continues to Expand

Published by:

By Bill Greulich

In spite of the current economic downturn, Victor Valley College continues to move forward at a measured pace with its plan for expansion. Some bond funded capital projects have progressed beyond the planning stage as evidenced by the start of construction on the new Eastside Public Safety Training Center and infrastructure upgrades to the main campus.

Construction began Thursday [August 12] on Victor Valley College’s Eastside Public Safety Training Center, the first major project to advance as part of a voter approved $298 million bond measure.

The $32 million center will train VVC students for firefighting, paramedic, police and corrections careers, and also be available for public safety agencies across Southern California.

“We needed a facility that would demonstrate our commitment to these four areas and would also be a training facility not only for the High Desert but for the entire region,” VVC Interim President Christopher O’Hearn said.

When it’s completed in December 2011, the facility will feature new technologies and training equipment, including a 5-story-tall fire tower to simulate the feel of being trapped in a burning building, and a 9-lane indoor shooting range with virtual and live-fire training simulators.

The facility is located on a 9-acre site on the southwest corner of Johnson and Navajo roads in Apple Valley, north of the Apple Valley Airport and next to the Wal-Mart distribution center.

Highland Partnership and Carrier- Johnson Architects are designing and building the 41,500-square-foot center, which will include 15 classrooms with 368 seats, parking for 225 vehicles, several buildings for administration, storage and laundry, and an outdoor space with training equipment.

Highland Partnership has committed to staffing more than 80 percent of its construction labor force with High Desert workers.

The project is also designed to meet LEED Gold certification rating by the U.S. Green Building Council, VVC officials said.

A 200-kilowatt solar system will power 50 percent of the facility, and buildings will include high efficiency plumbing and mechanical and water conserving fixtures. Its structural steel will be 95 percent recycled, and builders are using regional and low carbon-emitting materials.

Sixty-two percent of voters approved the $298 million Measure JJ in 2008. Measure JJ will cost taxpayers $20 a year per $100,000 of assessed property value over an estimated 30 to 35 years.

The college has already spent about $136 million in bond funds, including purchasing land for a future work force education center in Hesperia, setting aside funds for campus beautification and infrastructure improvements (Including parking lot repair), and paying off $53 million in past debt.

In other news, a one-stop center designed to consolidate a variety of student services such as financial aid, admissions, counseling, and more is currently under review.

Education General

Victor Valley Community College Construction News

Published by:

By Bill Greulich and Al McQuilkin

Victor Valley Community College’s drive to bring its bond-funded construction projects online in an expedient manner will result in high paying jobs for our community and facilities to create new training programs in a time when these items are essential to the economic welfare of our High Desert region. The projects, outlined below, will enhance essential programs, new technology, dramatic energy savings, and service to a burgeoning student population.

Eastside Public Safety Training Center:
Project Awarded: August 11, 2009
Design-Build Team Highland Partnership/Carrier-Johnson Architects
Contract Amount: $ 25,000,000
Total Project Budget: $ 29,946,466
Project Completion: Construction Completion – December 2011
Current Project Status:
Schematic design (SD) was completed as scheduled on September 24, 2009. Design Development (DD) was completed on November 11, 2009. Highland Partnership has submitted the first package to DSA, and anticipates submitting the remaining packages to DSA in March 2010. The District’s environmental consultant, Dudek, has been working on the technical studies needed to support the environmental document being prepared for the project. Over the past few months, Dudek has prepared the biological assessment, conducted a cultural resources review of previously-prepared documents, prepared a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment and started the air quality impact analysis. Linscott, Law & Greenspan (LLG) has been preparing the traffic study for the project. All technical studies are set to be completed by the end of December. The Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND), which is the environmental document needed to fulfill the District’s obligation under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), will be released for public comment on march 5, 2010. The project is scheduled for completion in December 2011.
Main Campus Solar Project:
Description: 1 megawatt Solar Photovoltaic (PV) System
Project Awarded: December 8, 2009
Company: SolFocus, Inc.
Contract Amount: $4,662,840
Project Completion: April 2010
Throughout the planning for bond and non-bond projects on the campus, energy conservation and renewable energy projects have been identified as very high priorities.
Following many weeks of discussion and research by district staff and program manager, the board, on November 10, 2009, approved moving forward with a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a 1MW solar generating facility. On November 13, 2009, a Request for Best & Final Proposal (BAFP) was issued to those firms that had previously submitted proposals, and on November 24, 2009, the District received five (5) responsive proposals.
A selection committee conducted interviews of all five proposers and completed a “best value” evaluation. The best value scoring, which included technical and price criteria, resulted in SolFocus, Inc. being the number one ranked proposer.
SolFocus’ proposal provides the District with the latest advanced technology, dual-axis, concentrator PV, coupled with the best price/performance ratio and the lowest installed cost. The guaranteed output from SolFocus’ system will achieve well over $20 million in savings over 25 years. The system will generate almost $4 million in incentives from the California Solar Initiative and an additional $2 million in avoided cost, tariff and renewable energy credit savings in the first 5 years.
The District plans on funding a portion of the solar facility from Measure JJ funds. Approximately $1.5 million of the total project cost of $4,662,840 will come from non-bond funds, with the remainder coming from Measure JJ funds.
The project is scheduled for completion by mid April, 2010
Westside Workforce Development Center (Phase I):
Project Delivery Method: Design-Build (Same process as Eastside Center)
Revised Project Budget: $ 32,847,642
Revised Timeline: Program Development, Scoping Document Development, Site Design (Grading, Infrastructure, Hydrology, Off-Site Improvements) – June 2010
Completion of Draft EIR – June 2010
Release RFP for Phase I Building – June, 2010
Complete Final EIR – December 2010
Complete Phase I Site Improvements – December 2012
Current Project Status:
The Westside Workforce Development Center is progressing. Several discussions with the City of Hesperia have helped define and clarify the CEQA process, which is currently underway. Several planning meetings have taken place to develop a site hydrology and drainage plan. Dudek has been working with the District, gkkworks, and project engineers to develop the Project Description for the Westside Center. Dudek will be conducting its biological field work on the Westside site in December. Results of the biological field work can be used by the engineers and the District to consider environmental constraints of the site in site planning. The CEQA process for the Westside Center will commence once the project description has been developed in sufficient detail. An environmental impact report (EIR) will be prepared for the project.
The timeline for program development and scoping document preparation has been modified to coordinate with the expected completion of the draft EIR in June 2010.
Education General

Programs For Success

Published by:

By Gary Thomas
San Bernardino County Superintendent

The challenges facing public education today are unprecedented for generations of students and their families. With state employment stagnated in double digits and effects of the housing crisis still crippling financial outlooks, the economic future and budget situation for California remains uncertain. Underlying those concerns for public education, there still remains troubling access and achievement gaps, and far too many of our students drop out of school before graduation. Under these conditions, the resolve to make sure that students are successful in school and carry with them the tools that will allow them to be successful in college and their careers must be stronger now more than ever.

Every one of us is feeling the impact of the current economic climate and statewide budget cuts; however, we cannot let that distract us from our mission of educating students. Every one of the 420,000 students in San Bernardino County deserves to have the best opportunity to succeed in school and every one of us has a moral responsibility to do all we can to see that they do.

Improving Student Performance

Remarkably, despite our current challenges, this year’s Accountability Progress Report shows that for the first time since state testing began, schools in San Bernardino County exceeded state averages with 61 percent of all schools meeting all of their Academic Performance Index (API) growth targets. High schools in the county made the biggest improvement, increasing 16 points. Also for the first time, county schools bettered statewide averages for those that showed overall API growth with 80 percent of schools increasing their API scores. That compares with 76 percent of schools statewide showing growth. A record 40 additional schools reached the state standard of 800 this year, including 12 in the High Desert. We also doubled the number of 900 schools in the county to 20, including three in the Victor Elementary School District and a fourth in Snowline Joint Unified. The county’s API growth of 17 points was the second largest in 11 years the state has done testing. These are truly remarkable results, and I am pleased to see the growth taking place, particularly with our high schools. These results are due to the hard work of teachers, principals, district administrators, board members, support staff, and parents to help students achieve academically. As we celebrate these accomplishments, we recognize that in our ever-changing diverse student population, there is an achievement gap that remains between subgroups of students that still requires a determined course of action.

Model Programs to Address the Access and Achievement Gap

One program that successfully addresses the access and achievement gap is AVID, Advancement Via Individual Determination. It’s hard not to be impressed with the work that AVID is doing in preparing our students for college. While AVID serves all students in secondary schools, its first focus is on the least-served students in the academic middle. I was so proud this past year when I attended the AVID Senior Recognition Ceremony to find out that 88 percent of more than 2,500 AVID seniors representing 77 high schools were recognized for having a letter of acceptance to a four-year college or university. That compares with only 47 percent statewide who enrolled in a California public college or university, according to the California Post-Secondary Education Commission. When looking at the percentage of AVID seniors meeting A-G course requirements in comparison to state and county totals, it is clear-AVID closes the achievement gap.

This year, it’s anticipated that more than 34,000 students in about 200 middle schools and high schools in San Bernardino and Riverside counties will be enrolled in AVID classes. In the High Desert, seven high schools from Barstow to Sultana accounted for nearly 200 high school seniors who graduated last year, with Granite Hills High School being one of the top producers of AVID graduates countywide with 53 seniors. As the county superintendent, I will continue to fight for funding for this outstanding program, which is desperately needed in our region as we prepare students for a highly competitive global economy.

High School Dropouts and Low College-Going Rates

As was shared, we have made great strides on academic performance indicators. When we received the most recently reported dropout data for 2008, we also showed improvement in terms of a decrease in the number of dropouts for Grades 9-12 in comparison to data released the prior year. Yet our county’s adjusted four-year derived dropout rate of 22.5 percent is above the statewide rate of 18.9 percent. Conversely, our county graduation rate is on the low side, 74.3 percent for 2007-08. Again, we trail state grad averages, which are 80.2 percent.

While our county dropout rate improved 3.8 percent from 2007, our schools and districts face the challenge of keeping more of their students engaged in the classroom and following a path that will lead to graduation. This is not an area of concern for our county alone. Forty years ago, our country was a leader in high school graduation rates. Today, it ranks 18th out of 24 industrialized nations. As recently as 1995, America was tied for first in college graduation rates; by 2006, this ranking had dropped to 14th.

Call to Action for Dropouts/Grad Rates

Last summer, I issued a “Call to Action” in response to our county’s high dropout and low graduation rates and called together key members of my staff to look at research and proven practices to attack this head on. These two issues-that go hand-and-hand-are the most pressing educational concerns for our region. They have severe ramifications that extend well beyond public education.

According to a recently released report, “The Economic Achievement Gap in America’s Schools” by McKinsey and Co., if America had closed the international achievement gap between 1983 and 1998 and had raised its performance to the level of such nations as Finland and South Korea, the gross domestic product of the United States in 2008 would have been between $1.3 trillion and $2.3 trillion higher. That’s sufficient enough to close the federal deficit. That’s why, every one has a stake in reversing the dropout rate. It’s necessary to fuel our local economy.

We need a more highly skilled and educated workforce to meet the demands of employers and sustain the economic viability of our region. In November, we issued the “Call to Action” to educators in the field and our broad base of community partners-business leaders, as well as those in labor, government, education, community, and faith-based groups, and most importantly parents and students. We held the first meeting of a stakeholder’s group that is focused on developing strategies and resources to help lower countywide dropout rates and increase graduation rates. We need our community’s expertise, insights, and experiences to tackle these challenges.

Barstow Unified has begun its own “Call to Action,” as Superintendent Susan Levine has organized the community to become involved in coordinating its own resources to tackle high dropout rates and low graduation rates in its own district.

At County Schools, we know how powerful collaboration can be with the growth of programs like AVID, Regional Occupational Programs, Smaller Learning Communities, the P-16 Councils, and the Alliance for Education. These programs have been very successful in engaging our students in learning and preparing them for post-secondary education. We are building on these successes and the key recommendations from more than 40 research studies to tackle troubling graduation and dropout rates.

Our growing population provides an ample landscape to mine fertile minds. Even with the tough economic circumstances of the last several years, our county is still home to more than 420,000 students, which could be a tremendous economic engine of growth if we can bring about stronger graduation and college-going rates. We must implement more and more ways to ensure that more of our young people get the kind of education that will increase their chance of success.

Soon, our office will be launching a new Web site aimed at this issue. The Every One Counts Web site pulls together key research and resources on dropouts, and will serve as a toolbox for educators, parents, community members, and students as we work to keep youth on track for high school graduation and post-secondary options.

Alliance for Education

The Alliance for Education is based on the new three R’s-Rigor, Relevance and Relationships-and it continues to make significant headway throughout the county, changing lives for thousands of students who:

  • Experience rigor in their academics and career technical preparation at Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math (or STEM) academies that prepares them for both college and careers.
  • Find relevance through classroom demonstrations and field studies in Algebra with business, labor, fire, and safety partners.
  • Form relationships at literacy and homework centers with faith-based and community partners.

Thanks to a $550,000 contribution to the Alliance from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, more of our students will benefit from STEM programs. This allowed the Alliance to increase STEM programs to 10 districts and 19 schools sites with more than 840 students participating. The High Desert has been at the forefront in recognizing the need for STEM programs with Barstow, Silverado and Victor Valley high schools offering STEM programs. During the past year, other funds have been secured from: Arrowhead Credit Union, Lewis Group of Companies, the James Irvine/Community Foundation, SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, the San Bernardino County Workforce Investment Board, Chaffey and San Bernardino Community College Districts, and federal funding for the STEM initiative. These programs total more than $1.4 million.

Regional Occupational Programs

The County Schools’ ROP program received a six-year accreditation – the highest available – in February from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. With 11 districts in the High Desert as part of the program, the ROP has been recognized statewide as a model program. ROP districts in the High Desert are Apple Valley, Baker Valley, Barstow, Hesperia, Lucerne Valley, Morongo, Needles, Silver Valley, Snowline, Trona, and Victor Valley. Offering some 125 classes from automotive repair to video production, more than 21,000 students countywide are enrolled in County Schools’ ROP programs. ROP instructors are specialists from business and industry chosen for their expertise and experience in their particular subject field. Each instructor is credentialed by the California Teaching Commission. Employers support the ROP in a variety of ways. Through their participation on advisory committees, business leaders assist in verifying local labor market demand, determining curriculum content, providing expert consultants, and recommending qualified instructors. In addition, employers provide facilities, equipment, and promote student job placement.

School Safety

Because high school dropouts are more likely to commit crimes than their peers with a high school diploma, addressing the reasons our young people drop out of school also helps to eradicate truancy, juvenile crime, and unsafe school environments. The Gangs & Drugs regional task forces have been meeting for a year now and have developed specific short and long term goals. As a result, there is a new juvenile court in the West End, which held its first hearing last month. In the High Desert, strong partnerships have been developed with the Sheriff’s Department, to support the rural areas that do not have their own police departments.

The Let’s End Truancy (LET) Program has received state and national recognition. As a result of LET and countywide School Accountability Review Board (SARB) trainings, reporting of truancies has improved and all but three small districts have SARB. Last year, five school districts in the county – including Victor Valley and Hesperia in the High Desert – were named SARB model statewide programs. That distinction was given to only eight districts statewide.

Our services in programs such as Coordinated Health, Foster Youth and Homeless Education have increased 10-fold. Working with our interagency partners in law enforcement, juvenile justice and social service, we’re targeting student and family needs to grow healthy schools and communities. With a grant from the Center for Disease Control, our office is pleased to be one of only three counties in the state to be awarded funds to implement a Coordinated School Health Model program with pilot districts and social service agencies to bring services to the schoolhouse door for students and families. If we can help by taking the social issues off the table for students, they can better focus on their schoolwork.

State Budget Outlook

There will be no relief from the poor economic conditions that have plagued much of the nation and especially California in recent years. That was evident following Gov. Schwarzenegger’s budget proposal for the 2010-11 fiscal year. For public education, the outlook remains bleak. Public schools are proposed to take a $1.7-billion hit, the majority of which is proposed to come from revenue limit funding. This equates to roughly a $200 per student reduction for the next fiscal year. This is on top of a current year per pupil reduction, equaling about $900 per student. These budget cuts threaten efforts to sustain improvement and reform, and erode the conditions that support teaching and learning. The current budget proposal also relies on nearly $7 billion of aid from federal government-assistance that already is proving to be unrealistic.

After suffering some $17 billion in cuts during the past two years, this may be the most difficult budget year yet for K-12 education. Already, we’re seeing districts proposing cuts they feel they will have to make to balance their future budgets. Our commitment at County Schools is ongoing support to our districts during these uncertain financial times. The 420,000 students in the county face the prospects of having more crowded classrooms, reduced programs in the arts and athletics, and fewer services offered.

Several research studies conducted in this state on school finance point to the need for a new approach, a stable approach-to funding California’s public schools. It’s time. We are jeopardizing the future of California’s workforce and economy.

Making Every One Count

What educators contribute daily to the life of a child matters deeply. What each of us does to support them and our students matters greatly. Every one counts in the life of a child:

  • Every educator;
  • Every business partner;
  • Every labor leader;
  • Every community member;
  • Every clergyman;
  • Every parent, brother and sister; every family member.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” As an educator, these words have profound meaning to me, especially in these challenging times for public education. I am a firm believer in the opportunities we can provide through public education, and I will continue to be a voice that is heard in support of all students in our county and making sure they have every opportunity to achieve academically.