The meeting at the high school of the Board of Trustees of the Big Valley Unified School District was a regular meeting of the board. The business of the day was to establish goals of the school district. It was entirely moderated by Mark Evans, the school district's recently hired Superintendant, who invited input from the entire audience.
This event, goal setting, has taken place at the School District for about 5 years. This is Mark Evans' first time moderating it.
The audience consisted of about 24 people, including the board itself, teachers, parents, interested parties and at least one student of the high school. The stated focus of the meeting was to come up with 6 to 8 realistic goals to enhance the learning experience of the District's students. This was not an empty meeting, all ideas from participants were received and discussed and there were no "put downs". All input was considered and discussed in a respectful manner. The task was to establish some written goals submitted by members of the audience and then to prioritize them and establish methods for realizing those goals.
The Big Valley Unified School District consists of Big Valley Primary School in Adin and the Intermediate and High School in Bieber. According to Mark Evans, the total enrolment now is 280 kids and is now in a decline, mostly due to population shitfts and low employment opportunities in the area. He stated that if the school district could attract all the children in the area who are eligible or are in "home schools", perhaps another 20 or so could be enrolled. Some questions wer raised as to why people choose to not enroll their children in the district schools. Mark explained that some of these children are being placed in other locations because of religious reasons, some because parents believe in values that differ from those taught in public schools and for a variety of other reasons. He explained that he would like to reach out to these students and parents and encourage them to attend the Big Valley School District. He stated that district has a very good population, meaning that we are not plagued with extreme violence and low morale that are exhibited in many inner city districts through out the country.
Much of the early discussion was spent about intervention into student failure. This idea started out as early detection and intervention for students who started to slip
Evans also stated that he would like to teach his students that the education process does not end with High School graduation, but can and should continue throughout one's life. To this end he proposed that college and or trade school visits could be made and that career councelling be offered. The object is to instill a desire for education and improvement which is carried with the student for the rest of his/her life.
Flora Gordon, a member of the Big Valley Chamber of Commerce suggested thet there is an untapped wealth of talent an "mentors" around the Valley who could be utilized to give students extra curricular educational experiences. This started discussion as to how local artists and craftsmen could expose students to valuable experiences outside the school. The idea of educational field trips was discussed.
Devon Barela, a high school student who hopes to enroll at Cornell University as a math major contributed some insight as to the high peer pressure which exists to NOT succeed. He claims that there is substantial pressure to rebel against the educational system and some students have the vision that it is "cool" to fail. Evans reponded that one of our greatest challanges is to motivate this group. "What's going to excite these students?" he asked.
Evans says that because the present staff within the district is sufficient, some refocusing of efforts toward supplying individual student needs is possible, meaning perhaps that special attention could be paid to students who need help. There is also the possiblity of establishing an accelerated program for gifted students.
The new educational mantra is "No Student Left Behind". Evans explained that it is unrealistic to believe that every student is equal, that is every fourth grader will not have fourth grade reading skills. Although it is a goal to improve our educational system such that every student reaches his highest potential, they can never be all equally educated.
This meeting lasted from 1 PM to 5PM and a wide variety of issues was entertained. Implementation of goals will be the subject of the next Board Meeting.