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Monday, Oct 15 2012 11:00 PM

ANDRAE GONZALES: BCSD's new plan represents a blueprint for district's future

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    Andrae Gonzales

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As we enter another election season, politicians and special interest groups will no doubt be selling the next big idea on how to "fix" education. But beneath these high clouds of rhetoric, any board of education must have its ear to the ground in guaranteeing opportunity to every child in its jurisdiction. Like Joe Friday in "Dragnet," all we want are the facts!

On Sept. 25, the Bakersfield City School District Board of Education unanimously approved its new Local Educational Agency plan. This is the culmination of two years of hard work during which time the district has gathered not just the facts but a great deal of local input with one goal in mind: to lay foundations for improving our children's education at every level.

What is striking about the BCSD plan is the ambition for change and the attention to detail. This is a document that gets down to the nuts and bolts, but is not afraid of the big picture. As Aida Molina, the district's executive director of academic improvement and accountability, explained at the meeting:

"This LEA plan takes us from the conceptual elements of the 'values, vision and mission' to the concrete practices that define our jobs for the next three years."

So what are these concrete practices?

Academic achievement comes first with the creation of a new Teacher Leadership Team charged with making important curricular changes. These will ensure that every student leaves their K-8 schooling with knowledge and skills that meet core standards. In addition, a collaborative culture focused on student learning will be established to support educators in delivering the new modules in the most effective ways.

There are also plans to improve school safety and each school's interaction with parents. Quality education begins outside the classroom with good health, happiness, a secure background and a thriving neighborhood. Strong partnerships between schools and their communities are essential. We must weave a web of relationships so tight that no child can fall through the cracks.

Accountability is another important driver for success. The district will establish separate performance evaluation methods for administrators, teaching staff, nonteaching staff and students. That means higher expectations leading to better teaching, effective management, a strong culture of learning and improved outcomes for children.

In the final section, timelines and expenditures are mapped out in detail for each of the three school years. BCSD will not only take responsibility for significant change but will measure success annually and monitor costs at every stage.

The only way to improve our local schools is through local action. Our schools, parents and neighborhoods have come together to create this ambitious and exciting blueprint for our district's future. Guided by our common values of equity, integrity, care, collaboration, and personal and collective accountability, it is now time to implement this plan together. Our children are counting on us -- and that's a fact.

Andrae Gonzales was elected to the Bakersfield City School District Board of Education in 2010. He is also the founder of Children First, a Bakersfield-based nonprofit, and CEO of Stewards Inc. Community Voices is an expanded commentary of 650 to 700 words.

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