A Bold Community Plan to Grow Our Schools
We need to have a bold strategic plan to address our increasing loss of students. One-fourth of the children of school age living in the Ojai Valley do not attend our public schools. Many of those parents cite our low standardized test scores as one of key reasons they are not sending their children to our public schools. When I grew up, almost all families from every socioeconomic background sent their children to the public schools. We had one of the best public schools in the state. I believe we can get back to that. But it is going to take leaders on the school board to organize a community-wide assessment and conversation as to why we are losing students, then come up with a long-range plan to turn this around.
We are a district of choice. Like the much praised Oak Park District, we can recruit students from Oak View, Ventura and Santa Paula. We can also find out what parents in the Valley are not sending their children to our schools why. There are many strategies that could improve our schools and make them more attractive to parents in the valley and beyond.
“One idea I have heard from a number of community leaders is to have all our schools provide top-notch education and experience in drama, music, dance and the visual arts. What better place than Ojai to try this strategy?
“A top-notch arts program will provide an outlet for a diverse group of students to excel in their nonacademic arts passions. Such programs have been shown to greatly improve academic performance as well. It would also attract talented students who also have strong academic interests.. We could learn from other school systems who have already successfully done this.”
“If we can increase student enrollments in this manner, we will have more money for higher teacher salaries, expanded programs, and improved offerings in the arts and academics. This will in turn attract more students and more education dollars. That’s a virtuous cycle. At the present we seem to be only managing student decline with ad hoc budget gimmicks and program cuts, like the recent attempt to reduce the number of class periods at Nordhoff High School. That is called a vicious cycle. I believe the parents, residents and community leaders are ready and willing to get behind an effort to proactively develop and implement a bold turn-around strategy.
I welcome the opportunity to work with you, the Board and our public school community to find new ways to strengthen and grow our schools so that all of our students can thrive.