Plans changed for 11 failing campuses
Debbie Pfeiffer Trunnell, Staff Writer
Posted: 07/17/2010 09:31:33 PM PDT

SAN BERNARDINO – School district officials say they are moving ahead with implementing plans to turn around 11 low-achieving elementary, middle and high schools.

But others, ranging from a county board of education member to the mayor’s chief of staff, say they are concerned the reforms, which the district changed in recent weeks, may not be enough.

“I was really taken aback with these proposals, which seem to send mixed messages to the community,” said Gil Navarro, a member of the county board of education. “What needs to be recognized here is these schools have been singled out, and we don’t have time to experiment anymore.”

The decision at the July 6 school board meeting was to use the transformation model at five San Bernardino City Unified School District schools and turnaround at six, instead of going with the district-run charter or restart model for six of the schools.

Schools slated for transformation, which replaces the principal and rewards leaders, teachers and staff who improve student achievement, are Davidson and Rio Vista elementary schools along with Pacific, San Gorgonio and Arroyo Valley high schools.

The turnaround model, which calls for replacing the principal and half the teaching staff, will be used at Barton, Marshall, Hunt and Wilson elementary schools and Serrano and Shandin Hills middle schools.

To get a federal School Improvement Grant, or SIG, to turn the tide, districts with struggling schools were asked by the state to put the interventions, also including restart or closing schools, in place.

Originally, the school district went with making six of the schools charters, because turnaround was deemed to be too drastic.

But just prior to the July 2 deadline for sending in the SIG funding application, officials learned they met the criteria for turnaround if they already had turnover in instructional staff in the last two years.

In addition, district officials believe the state is more interested in transformation and turnaround, putting them in a better position to get funding, said Superintendent Arturo Delgado.

The superintendent also was quick to dismiss claims the district is taking the easy way out by switching from restart to turnaround.

So far, he said, the district has replaced principals at all the schools, with the exception of Rio Vista and Shandin Hills.

And teachers are making plans to work in professional learning environments.

More major changes, such as extending the school year and hiring additional people to provide after-school programs and one-on-one tutoring, require the funding, he said.

At this point, the district still is negotiating over the school year issue and using student performance data to evaluate teachers, he said.

“We have been in discussion with our union since day one,” he said. “Both the teachers association and district are interested in looking after the best interests of our students.”

Rebecca Harper, president of the San Bernardino Teachers Association, could not be reached for comment.

One charter reform plan that will stay in place is oversight committees for each school. The committees will include parents, teachers, administrators, classified employees and even some older students at the high schools.

To read entire story, click here.