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When I was principal at a TUSD elementary school in the last decade we created a community school in many ways. Among the activities: Senior group used the school regularly for meetings, classes, and activities; a Wellness Center which coordinated many neighborhood and community resources; a Salud Para Todos Health Clinic which helped with shots and physicals, etc.; a neighborhood association meeting site; sports fields rented by local teams after hours; an after hours YMCA program which both supported getting homework done and providing before and after school games and activities; a place for adult learning classes; an election voting site; took part in neighborhood festivals; scout troops; Saturday morning homework help for underperforming 5th graders; America Reads extra reading help for 3rd graders; as well as a variety of whole school learning promotions which drew heavily on community volunteers, including creating an outdoor Patio Reading Garden. Our teachers brought in dozens of volunteers to support Young Authors Days for the entire school; Love of Reading readers; and took dozens of field trips using the community as a classroom. Our annual Health and Safety Fairs brought in 100s of people and used our partnership with the Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Units to promote personal and community safety and health. 25% of our students came from Open Enrollment brought about by strong relationships with pre-school and day care centers as well as frequent positive news mentions of curriculum-based learning activities. And our test scores were good. We also had KIDCO during the summer in the afternoons following our morning Summer School programs. We also co-sponsored through our PTA and neighborhood association candidate forums for school boards, city council, and other elections in the evenings. Folks, it can be done. Most, if not all of that was discontinued after I retired. Personnel make a difference. School Board, take note.
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I don't think the district will close all of the suggested schools, but pitting them against each other without clear standards for closure is punishment for the parents and children and staff. Some will be closed. If I were doing it, lowest ranked schools, lowest enrollment schools, and schools that have poor records for staff turnover and inability or unwillingness to encourage open enrollment would be the ones selected. A factor that many do not seem to grasp is that the growth of homes for young families is in the outlying districts, not in TUSD. Children move because their families move. Also, no one has published a valid study on the charter school back and forth traffic. I have personally and professionally seen students pulled by their parents into charters for specific times, who then bring them back to TUSD because this district has more to offer: technology, gifted and special ed classes, athletics, friendships, etc. Angry parents will leave when they don't like principals or teachers. Much internal work in the district must be done whether or not schools are closed Thursday night.
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Well done, Jeff Biggers and David Safier. Your points are very well-taken and present once again the problem of the "bleaching" of southwestern history. PCC and classes in Mexican-American history can help remedy the lack you express.
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Jun 30, 2012