School board holds special meeting; Certifies Measure B results

At a special meeting of the Plumas Unified School District board on Dec. 19, the board formally confirmed certification of the election results for Measure B. The county now has 60 days to establish an oversight committee to monitor and report to the public on expenditures made from Measure B funds.

According to state law, the oversight committee must have at least seven members with the following composition:

– An active member of a business association;

– An active member in a senior citizen’s association;

– A parent or guardian of a student in the district;

– A parent or guardian of a student in the district who is also active in a parent-teacher association;

– An active member of a bona fide taxpayers’ association; and

– Other members as desired.

Education Conference

Plumas Unified School District board members came back from attending the 2016 Annual Education Conference and Trade Show in San Francisco excited by what they had learned.

The California School Boards Association put on the conference for members of school boards and district offices to learn new ideas from each other and from invited experts on how to improve student achievement in their schools.

Pierson said at the special board meeting, “It was a great experience … we need to be more involved at [the state] level. … Our needs are far different than those of Los Angeles schools, but they are still important.”

Teacher shortages

Board member Dave Keller reported that 75 percent of school districts had teacher shortages this year. He explained that due to insufficient funding in earlier years, school districts were forced to lay off employees and stop hiring new teachers. The word got around to students. As a result, the number of students trained as teachers is currently down 76 percent from what the number was in 2002.

School Superintendent Terry Oestreich informed the board that the district was going to be advertising jobs at several teaching job fairs throughout the West in order to find additional teachers.

Administrative stability

Administrative instability was also identified as a concern at the conference in that it disrupts schools and lowers school morale.

Keller noted that Greenville High School has had eight different principals in the last few years. Superintendent Oestreich reinforced Keller’s statement by reporting that six of seven principals in the district are new this year.

WE At School’

Board member Joleen Cline was particularly excited learning about the “WE At School” program at the conference. The WE At School program is a free curriculum that gives students the tools and guidance they need to carry out independent public service projects.

The student first decides what public need the student would like to address. The student then designs and carries out a project to help at the local level. The student goes on to do a related project at the regional level and, finally, at the world level.

In the process, the student learns how to carry out projects, help people in his or her community and has the opportunity to interact with people outside the local area.

Board members thought this would be particularly educational for students growing up in smaller towns. They also thought it might be something to add to the senior project that students are currently doing during their senior year in high school.

They also noted that it might be good to begin doing these projects earlier in a child’s education.

More information on the WE At School can be found at we.org/we-at-school/.

Building a culture of trust

Board member Leslie Edlund learned at the conference how important it is to build a sense of community, both within the school and between the school, families and the rest of the community.

Edlund described how some schools have reduced suspensions to near zero by replacing a strictly punitive culture with a culture that encourages empathy, mutual communication and agreed-upon behavioral standards.

Parent engagement

Edlund expressed a desire to start something like a “Parent University” to help willing parents learn particular ways they could help their child in school.

Edlund was especially concerned that parents are not told what courses, i.e., subject requirements, are required for entry into the University of California.

Edlund also noted that the district isn’t currently reaching out to future students in preschools, or to families in which English is the second language to see if they need help with registration.

The conference also made Edlund realize how important the entranceways to schools are. She learned that there should be signs out in front of every school which prominently display, “Welcome, the Office is this Way,” in order to make parents and other community members feel welcome and to show them how to find their way to the school office.

Student’s emotional state

Pierson learned how important the emotional state of a student is in that student’s ability to learn. Pierson noted that 20 percent of students in California come to school with serious emotional problems. If a student is afraid or chronically depressed, he or she will probably have little energy or will be too distracted to learn well.

He said that the San Mateo School District decided they needed to do something about this. They turned to the Search Institute for help.

According to the Search Institute, students need 40 assets at their disposal to learn well and become good citizens.

The Search Institute has divided these 40 assets into six groups: emotional support from family members and others, community involvement with young people, clear boundaries and expectations, constructive use of time outside school, commitment to learning and positive social values.

San Mateo School District gives every child a survey when they enter school. Those students with 22 or fewer assets are given individual help to get them the help they need in order to be able to learn.

Pierson learned at the conference that a student needs approximately three adult mentors to help her or him through childhood. If the family or community is not there for the child, the school may need to help provide those mentors.

For more information about the 40 assets, go to search-institute.org/what-we-study/developmental-assets.

Board members to visit schools

The conference also reinforced the school board members’ aspirations to visit schools. This is necessary so that board members can learn what is going on at local schools.

Board member Traci Holt said she has tried to visit schools as much as possible, given her other family and business responsibilities, but she wishes she could visit more often. Holt said, “When we see really good things happening [in one school], we want to emulate it across the district.”

Thanks to the community

The board members were clearly excited about interacting with board members from across the state and about learning new ways to help students.

Pierson thanked the community for allowing the board and Oestreich to attend the conference.

“It was exciting. We learned a lot.” Edlund said. “There was so much good stuff.”