The SAUSD is in denial about the persistently low performing public schools in Santa Ana
If you glance at the Santa Ana Unified School District’s website, you might come away thinking everything in the district is great. Headlines include: “Academic Achievement Abounds;” “Measure G Facility Improvements;” and “SAUSD Congratulates its Top Educators of the Year.”
There is no mention of the fact that four of the seven Santa Ana High Schools have been placed on the State of California’s “Persistently Low Performing” list, necessitating massive changes which might include transferring teachers, replacing administrators and even the possibility of becoming charter schools.
But check out what overmatched SAUSD Superintendent Jane Russo has to say on her website, under the headline, “Success is the Standard:”
We are dedicated to high academic achievement, in a scholarly and supportive environment, ensuring that all students are prepared to accomplish their goals in life. Failure is Unacceptable! Success is the Standard…It’s Up to Us All!
Is it just me or is Russo in complete denial?
SAUSD Superintendent Jane Russo appears to be without a clue…
Russo is one of the highest paid public school superintendents in the nation. Yet she has no doctorate in education, unlike many of her peers, and she has zero experience in turning around failing school districts. The SAUSD School Board allegedly conducted a national search and then hired her. Russo was previously an assistant to the former Superintendent, Al Mijares, who read the tea leaves and ran for the hills a few years ago.
The high schools that are failing include Santa Ana High School, Valley High School, Century High School and Saddleback High School. The only SAUSD high schools that are not failing are the fundamental schools – Godinez and Segerstrom, as well as the experimental High School, Inc. An SAUSD charter school, the Orange County High School for the Arts, is one of the top schools in the country. Very few Santa Ana residents attend that school and the school is not required to accept anyone from Santa Ana.
So what to do? The SAUSD administration is in denial. The SAUSD School Board includes members who have been on the board for years and have accomplished nothing, with the notable exception of Roman Reyna, who is new to the board.
When a company’s leadership fails, stockholders replace them. So too do we need to look at getting rid of Russo and most of her senior staff. And we need to fire the School Board too. All of them.
But that is just a start. There are deeper problems involved and we should not blame the teachers. They are doing the best they can. Transferring them to other schools will fix nothing. It will just add to the teacher’s woes.
A closer look at the SAUSD student population reveals problems including:
- Limited English fluency
- Many single parent families
- Many very young mothers
- Parents who each work two jobs and don’t have time to help their kids with homework
- Parents who did not finish grade school
- Very few parents who have high school degrees, much less college diplomas
- Poverty stricken families that are struggling to survive in the dreadful new economy
- Gangs abound in the area and their members often hook youngsters into the drug trade as a way to make quick, easy money
Our City government is doing what it can, but the City of Santa Ana is flat broke. We have one small satellite public library on the west side, near our border with Garden Grove. We have a main library over in the Civic Center. And the city maintains a homework center where the McFadden library used to be, with the help of the Santa Ana Police Department. We do have a lot of other programs, which you can read about here:
- The City has invested heavily in our community centers. Click here to see a list of them. Our community centers are currently hosting dozens of summer programs that you can read about by clicking here. The Jerome Center was recently renovated. You can read about the renovation by clicking here. Our Parks and Rec Agency Director, Gerardo Mouet, took over control of our soccer fields and now youth have even more access to them. Click here to read about that. The Santa Ana Parks and Recreation Department is also offering a pretty amazing array of “leisure classes.” Click here to learn more about those. And Mouet followed my advice and changed the Santa Ana Zoo’s free day to the third Sunday of the month. Hundreds of Santa Ana’s kids got to see the Zoo for free today! Click here to read about that.
- How about our Public Libraries? Mouet has acted swiftly to expand our library services since he took over management of our libraries. Click here to see their new website. Note that American History ebooks are now available for FREE to our residents. Mouet also added an extensive online selection of books about animals. And he added a virtual reference library! Services also now include online book clubs! And Mouet is offering a slew of summer programs that you can read about by clicking here. Our libraries are also offering free computer workshops for kids, starting in August. Click here to read about that.
- And while the City has cut back on some City Commissions, the Youth Commission is still active. Click here to read about that.
- Did you know that the Santa Ana Police Department offers dozens of FREE programs, many of them youth-oriented? Click here to read about them. The Santa Ana Police Athletic League also has a vast summer activity program that you can read about by clicking here.
- Our City also promotes events all over town on their Community Calendar, that you can access byclicking here.
- And here is the clincher – our City even offers a “Youth Page” on their website – with dozens of links to all sorts of programs going on in our city. Click here to access the Youth Page.
- Our City also offers help to those looking for work. Click here to see the City’s Work Center Page.
Almost 80% of the students at Century lack what it takes to get into a state university. But there has been some improvement. The school has experimented with a program to encourage students to become teachers. The school also has a business academy and art classes that include chatting with Dreamworks animators, according to the O.C. Register.
So what to do?
A friend once told me that by the time a kid gets to the fifth grade, he is either going to get it or he is destined to fail. While our high schools are a mess, we cannot overlook the importance of our middle and elementary schools. That is the best point at which to intervene.
I do think we need to look at the charter school option as well, at least with regard to our high schools. But that is not a cure all.
Russo in particular needs to go. It is way past time to hire s superintendent who has turned around failing school districts in districts with a lot of poor families and immigrants. She simply has no clue and she is unlikely to suddenly develop one.
While our City Council is broke, we should not stop trying to partner with City Hall. I met recently with Gerardo Mouet, the director of the Santa Ana Parks and Recreation Agency, which oversees our Public Library and Zoo as well. I suggested that we look at micro-libraries, that could be set up in vacant storefronts. We might be able to get landlords to let us use the storefronts for free, on the premise that they will bring foot traffic to dying retail centers. And we can provide the SAPD officers with desks at each micro library so they can work on their reports.
These libraries would include a lot of computers with Internet access. We could get interns from local colleges to help kids with homework. There would be no books. Kids could order books from the Main Library and they would be sent by a daily courier to each Micro-Library.
We should also look to the Artists Village. Why don’t we ask the folks there to conduct free after school art classes? In particular, I would love to see taggers go through such training. They may have untapped potential!
As a community we all need to do our part. Readers – any more ideas?