Jan 192011
 

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER

Jan. 19, 2011 –

By Steve Marschke,
News-Ledger Editor

Washington Unified School District hosted a “town hall” meeting on January 8 at River City High School’s library. The WUSD was asking for public input on where to focus its efforts this year, under the basic strategic guidelines offered by board president Dave Westin.
“As board president, I have the unique opportunity to set initiatives and have volunteers come forward to support them,” Westin told the Saturday-morning crowd.
Westin had earlier named these four goals:
There’s a “Whole Child Initiative,” a “Parent’s Bill of Rights” initiative, a “Better West Sacramento” initiative and a “Community Networking/Outreach Initiative.”
The Whole Child Initiative will “focus on how to provide a level playing field to all children in the district,” he explained. Westin hopes to rally all available government services to support kids in school.
The “Parents Bill of Rights” initiative will “empower parents to take charge of their children’s education,” said Westin.
The “Better West Sacramento Initiative” involves reaching out to other local agencies “because we really need to have a joint vision with the city and the other agencies around us,” Westin said. He later told the News-Ledger his administration will even extend across the river to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, to see if there are ways the two jurisdictions can partner and prosper.
The “Community Networking/Outreach” initiative is needed “because we live in the age of social networking,” Westin said. That networking can be put to better use, he feels.
Westin told the News-Ledger that he thinks the district can keep improving its student test score results, after this year’s reported 20-point gain within WUSD. He thinks the benchmark 800-point level is obtainable by virtually every school.
“I don’t see why, in the next three to four years, every school in the district, save maybe Yolo High and one other school, can’t be at 800 points,” he commented.
Several dozen people showed up at Saturday’s “town hall meeting.” District employees outnumbered the general public, although some of the employees reported having kids in school within the district. All of the participants, including board members, were divided into groups to “brainstorm” goals for WUSD.
In one group, comments covered a lot of ground.
Resident Liz Bagdazian worried about supporting kids who had problems with their basic needs.
“There are kids coming to school hungry,” she said. “Kids with a lot of baggage attached to them. It’s pretty black out there. . . we have to take care of the full child, not just the kid that’s going to come in and take your test.”
A 71-year old man said he had a grandson now in local schools after initially after being raised in Japan.
“You have kids who don’t have respect for their teacher,” said the grandfather. “(My grandson) complains every day, ‘gee, those kids are noisy.”
Several participants said the school district needs to strike a harder bargain with the city over who will pay for maintenance of jointly-used facilities, like tennis courts or the high school track.
Sue Brothers, a WUSD administrator, pushed for more “tech” training in school.
“I think we have a gap between high school and career,” she said. “I’d really like to see us do something about that.”

In the end, ideas from the first four groups of participants were distilled into seven guiding principles.
They included better communication from WUSD, closer ties to business partners, an improved system for delivering support services to pupils in need, equity among the facilities at different campuses, intervention and support for student achievement, a more organized mentoring program, and other “relationship building” between students and adults.
copyright News-Ledger 2010, 2011

Steve Marschke

Steve Marschke