A recent article in The Bee ("Reworking city image," Oct. 11, Page B-1) discussed a movement to improve Modesto's tarnished image, an image that includes many negative references — foreclosures, auto theft and crime.
Any effort to change how people think about Modesto must include an investment in our children. As the superintendent of Modesto City Schools, my first priority is the students and this means sometimes dealing with challenging issues head on.
I have a top 10 list, a list that addresses things I hope the community will be open to when recognizing my efforts to lead Modesto City Schools' students toward a diploma in every hand.
1 Be open to the superintendent touting excellence in teaching and learning. I will continue to carry the banner and brag about our accomplishments and emphasize placing "A Diploma in Every Hand."
There are more than 1,000 school districts in California, yet Modesto City Schools caught the attention of state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell. He visited Modesto to congratulate 11 of our schools for making significant improvements on state test scores. Hear more good news about Modesto City Schools on our Web site or in our monthly newsletter, which is funded through private donations.
2 Be open to the consistent message that accountability is necessary. Raising the bar for students is important, and our teachers are skillful at doing it every day in their classrooms. They motivate students, teach the curriculum, and assess what was taught. Parents at Shackelford Elementary know the difference between "proficient" and "far below basic." Great teachers have embraced state standards and continue to use the data to adjust their teaching strategies.
3 Be open to strategic planning. When I arrived, there was no documented plan for how to change our California Department of Education sanctions. I was charged, by the board, to address the issues and make improvements. As a result, the Modesto City Schools' strategic plan has been implemented and is accomplishing what it is intended to do: Guide Modesto City Schools on a path of continuous improvement.
4 Be open to administrators and the superintendent being visible in the schools and in the community. Our classroom visits, called focus walks, help with bonding and the sharing of best practices. At our last visit to Shackelford Elementary, students referred to us by our names. I am proud that district leadership takes an active role in supporting schools and our community.
5 Be open to a commitment to professional development. More than 95 administrators have received, or will receive, 215 hours of professional development on how to best meet the needs of their teachers and students.
6 Be open to tough financial decisions. We intend to be inclusive and transparent and to remain positively certified by the Stanislaus County Office of Education. Our staff has earned the community's trust through action and will uphold principles before politics and self interests.
7 Be open to task forces reviewing and exploring innovative ways to ensure a diploma in every hand. We must expand vocational academics and pathways, as well as college preparation programs. For example, the AdvancePath Academy at Beyer High School is one way to meet the needs of students in danger of dropping out of school.
8 Be open to the superintendent making tough personnel decisions for the health and efficiency of the district. Not many CEOs would tolerate unprofessional actions by anyone within their organization. I want our organization to prove that it values high expectations and standards for all.
9 Be open to protocols, professionalism and a reluctance to engage in a continuous debate over decisions we have made regarding personnel and finances. We must move forward and stop looking in the rearview mirror.
10 Be open to new leadership and valor. I will continue to push, motivate and empower employees through learning communities. Morale and relationship building are everyone's responsibility.
My hope is you support your schools and that you are proud of our accomplishments. Modesto City Schools' employees are bright and trustworthy and continue to work hard in our mission. I ask that you continue to participate in the creation of a positive image for Modesto and for Modesto City Schools. Our staff is honest and open, forward-thinking, positive and optimistic and continues to achieve academic excellence — even in difficult times.