Securing adequate funding, increasing students’ critical thinking skills, expanding technology and boosting extra-curricular activities at Temecula’s middle schools are among the Temecula Valley Unified School District’s biggest challenges, Superintendent Tim Ritter told a group of parents on Wednesday.
Ritter is hosting four Parent & Community forums this year to give parents and members of the public an opportunity to hear about the state of the Temecula district and current issues impacting education.
The forums are open to the public and are being held in the conference rooms at the TVUSD office, 31350 Rancho Vista Road in Temecula.
The first forum was held Wednesday and 15 people attended, mostly parents of students in Temecula public schools.
Ritter gave a broad overview of many issues facing parents and students, including funding challenges in light of state budget cuts to schools, and the need for more career technical education for students who don’t attend college.
He also spoke about the need to bring more activities to students at the middle schools.
The TVUSD does a good job of bringing extras like sports to students in elementary and the high schools, but for the middle schools, Ritter said, “I think we’re missing it there…. middle school in our district is just school.”
He noted that research shows students do better academically when they feel connected to their schools and community.
The district also needs to improve in the area of technology and Internet access.
“We haven’t been able to stay ahead of the curve in education technology,” Ritter said, adding that a top priority will be to increase Internet access at all campuses so eventually students can bring their own mobile devices like iPads and smartphones to school to facilitate learning.
Parents at the meeting asked questions about the school facility bond the district has placed on the November ballot. Measure Y would raise $165 million for campus improvements district-wide. The measure needs 55 percent of the vote from district residents to pass and Ritter said TVUSD polls showed it has 56 to 57 percent support. He noted that the TVUSD facility plan lists some $300 million in needed projects – “some more wish than need” – but the bond funds would help accomplish many goals.
According to a fact sheet on the TVUSD website, Measure Y funds would be spent to upgrade classrooms, science labs, computer systems and technology infrastructure; be spent to renovate and modernize facilities and equipment to provide new and expanded career technical programs and advanced courses in math, science, and technology; improve energy efficiency; fund arts programs; repair and replace roofs, floors, walkways, lighting, electrical and plumbing systems; and other upgrades to help reduce overcrowding.
“It’s local money for local purposes,” Ritter said, explaining that exactly how much money the bond would yield for TVUSD depends on how successfully district officials can sell bonds over a period of time. None of the money would go to the state.
Parents at the meeting also asked about ways in which schools can raise revenues.
Ritter explained that districts are limited but they can put facility bonds before voters; put a parcel tax on the ballot seeking local tax funds; raise money through the district’s education foundation; and raise funds through booster clubs. Increasing attendance at school also increases revenue since schools in California receive funding based on a formula tied to the average daily attendance (ADA) at a given school.
Ritter also gave an overview of the Common Core State Standards, which are coming to the district and all schools in 46 states beginning next year. The CCSS will require students to meet more rigorous standards, develop better critical thinking skills and improve literacy in an effort to focus education on college and career readiness.
The development of the CCSS was a voluntary, state-led effort coordinated by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, with interested groups like teachers and parents from nearly every state contributing to their development.
It’s been up to each state to decide whether or not to implement them and California adopted them in 2010. The CCSS include college and career-readiness standards for mathematics, English-language arts, and literacy in various content areas for K-12 students.
For those who missed the first forum held Wednesday, here are the dates for the other three forums planned this school year:
- Oct. 17 at 6 p.m.
- Feb. 20, 2013, at 11 a.m.
- March 20, 2013, at 6 p.m.
Amy Bentley is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.