Wed. Nov 29th, 2023

Godinez High has quickly become one of Santa Ana’s best schools

Ouch.  The O.C. Register slammed the Santa Ana Unified School District in this year’s “Orange County’s Best Public Schools: High Schools” report,” which was published on Sunday.

In the report, Santa Ana Unified has the bottom four ranked schools, Century High, Valley High, Santa Ana High, and Saddleback High.

But the article didn’t tell the whole story.  For one thing, the SAUSD’s newest high school, Godinez Fundamental, is quickly turning into a real gem, on a par with Segerstrom High, which received a Bronze Award in the Register’s 2010 report.  But Godinez isn’t ranked in the report, probably because they are too new.

Two other SAUSD schools also received awards.  The Orange County High School for the Arts was one of five gold medal winners.  OCSHA is a charter school.  Few Santa Ana kids get into the school, but those that do generally excel.

And SAUSD’s Middle College High not only won a silver award, but earlier this month, twenty-seven Middle College High School (MCHS) seniors from the Class of 2010 graduated with both a high school diploma from Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD) and an associate of arts degree from Santa Ana College (SAC). The graduates receiveed their AA degree from Santa Ana College during a June 3 commencement ceremony at Santa Ana Stadium, followed by their high school diploma in a ceremony on June 17.

Middle College High School (MCHS) is a Santa Ana Unified School District school, located at Santa Ana College. A collaborative venture between the Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD) and Santa Ana College(SAC), opened its doors in 1997 with approximately 80 sophomores and a staff consisting of four teachers, a high school counselor, a principal and two classified employees. In 2000 Middle College High School graduated its first class with its valedictorian holding the distinguished rank of valedictorian of the high school and the college.

The bad news?  Only 80 students will be accepted into the 9th grade next year.  Slim pickings, but cream of the crop.

We also have another great charter school, the Nova Academy Early College High School, which recently won the PIMCO 2010 Excellence Award.  They weren’t in the Register’s report either.  I suspect their campus is also too knew to track yet.

Yes, there are a lot of kids struggling in SAUSD schools, but there are also a lot of kids doing very well.  My three boys all go to SAUSD schools.

My son Joey just finished his junior year at Godinez, where he is the number two ranked student on campus.  He is taking AP level courses. Joey has played on his high school baseball team for three years. He was the closer on his team this year.  In that time he also taught himself how to play the guitar and drums.  He is pretty good!  He can play AC/DC and Led Zep songs, which is good enough for me.

My other boys are younger, but Jimmy did finish intermediate school this year and he is going to be attending Godinez also in the fall.  He too received scholastic awards at the end of the year.  It was telling that SAUSD Trustee Audrey Noji addressed Jimmy and his peers, at their graduation this month, in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.  Santa Ana is changing and there are a lot of Vietnamese students now amongst their Latino peers.

My son Jacob, who is a first grader at John Muir Fundamental Elementary School, also received a slew of awards at the end of the year.

All of my boys received awards in English/Reading.  Jimmy and I both read the same science fiction novels – and he has become a voracious reader.

My daughter graduated from Santa Ana High School, where she also excelled at water polo.  She just finished a two year fashion degree at FIDM, which is a world-renowned art school in Los Angeles.  She finished with a GPA higher than 3.0.  She is now looking for an internship in her industry.

The difference for my kids?  A house full of computers and parents dedicated to reading and to helping them with their studies.  We have always been here for them.

Not all Santa Ana kids are as lucky.  I for one won’t criticize their families.  They are poor and struggling to survive.  We live in a city with only one main library and one small external branch.  The libraries are closed on Sunday.  Many kids in town don’t have access to the Internet.  Many live in cramped surroundings with no desk to do their homework on.  And many live in single parent homes.

SAUSD has laid off teachers for several years now.  That has really hurt younger teachers.  That is a damn shame as they would have brought new energy to our schools. We have a lot of great veteran teachers but also  a few that, quite frankly, could care less.

I still am not sold on the SAUSD administrators.  Nor do I have much faith in our School Board.  If we are to turn things around it will be up to us.

We need more partnerships with local industry leaders.  We need better administrators with more experience in turning around troubled school districts.  We need more public libraries.  I wrote a position paper when I ran for the Santa Ana City Council, proposing micro libraries that would make use of our empty retail stores, providing computers with Internet access, and space to do homework.  Plus the idea would have included a mobile service that would have delivered books, upon request, from the main library to the micro libraries.

But both the City of Santa Ana and the SAUSD are broke.  So what to do?

I know what I won’t do.  I won’t pull my kids out of SAUSD schools and put them in private schools, like most of our local politicians have done over the years.  One of our Trustees, Audrey Noji, sent her son to high school in Irvine.  And a candidate for our school board that has run twice, and lost, named Cecilia Aguinaga, took her kids out of public schools and put them in private schools.

We need school board members who will have faith in our schools and in our teachers, and who will be creative and inspired.  We certainly don’t have that sort of vision on our School Board now.

But know this – despite all the problems we do have a lot of great kids who are doing well.  We just need to work harder to help the rest of them too.

By Editor

The New Santa Ana blog has been covering news, events and politics in Santa Ana since 2009.

20 thoughts on “O.C. Register report slams Santa Ana schools, but doesn’t tell the whole story”
  1. It is possible to receive a great education in Santa Ana. Educated parents who know the system can make the most of it and in many cases, their kids will have more opportunities to excel than they would in districts like Irvine. Unfortunately, I have to emphasize that in order to get a great education, the parent must be knowledgeable and probably pretty savvy.
    When the Santiago parents realized that they had been boxed out of all Fundamental schools, they went into action and now they have basically turned Santiago into a K-8 school. When a less educated parent appeared before the board after being turned down for admission to all of the Fundamental schools, her only defense was to send two kids to speak in front of the board threatening to not attend school in the fall, and of course, that ploy didn’t work.
    While I agree that the Fundamental schools are doing a great job and they are necessary in order for SAUSD to keep their best and brightest, the “brain drain” that occurs at the remaining schools is undeniable. Years ago, the opening of Mendez began the decline of Willard, within a few years Willard went from a school with an outstanding GATE program to one of the worst in the state. I don’t think the SAUSD administration was prepared or had the forethought to be proactive in this situation. The same is true (and much more recent) for Saddleback High School. Saddleback used to represent the best high school in the district, if Fundamental school kids actually stayed in the district for high school, they attended Saddleback. The longtime teachers at Saddleback have basically been blindsided by the rapid decay of their school since the opening of Godinez and Segerstrom.
    I don’t know what the answer to this problem is, but I’m sure that I could come up with better solutions that the SAUSD and their blame the teachers game. Having over 500 kids on wait lists at each of the intermediate Fundamental schools should tell you that there is a fundamental problem and a fundamental need that should be addressed immediately. Sitting around while thousands of kids and parents have the desire for a better education and yet no access is unacceptable.

  2. Art,

    Great to hear that your kids are doing so well, you should be very proud of them. Unfortunately, your analysis of the problems with SAUSD demonstrate clearly that you simply don’t get it.

    Your kids are obviously smart and also benefit from your active involvement in their academic lives. I’m certain that a good percentage of kids currently failing miserably are also smart kids – but the reason they are failing while your kids are thriving is cultural and parental apathy, neglect and ignorance.

    That you don’t get this, and refuse to blame the parents, is truly sad. Your personal and political bias, and yes – racial opportunism – has so severly compromised your thought process that you refuse to acknowledge the elephant sitting on your head.

    You stated: “I for one won’t criticize their families. They are poor and struggling to survive. We live in a city with only one main library and one small external branch. The libraries are closed on Sunday. Many kids in town don’t have access to the Internet. Many live in cramped surroundings with no desk to do their homework on. And many live in single parent homes.”

    You MUST criticize their families. Poor kids all over the US, from every demographic – rural to inner city – have excelled academically when they have parents and support systems (extended families, volunteers, etc.) who hammer into them the importance of education. A single parent who makes education a priority and clears the kitchen table so their kids can study doesn’t need a library or computer at home. I didn’t have a computer and my Mom raised us alone. She worked and went to schiool herself – all the while staying involved, making us do homework, asking about our classes, staying in touch with teachers, etc.

    You suggest that we need partnerships with ” local industry leaders.” No, we don’t. All the money in the world won’t help a bit when the kids have NO support at home, their parents cannot read, speak or write English, their culture does not respect – and often scorns – education, and they live in an insular world where the radio, TV, signage, businesses, churches, etc. are all Spanish-language.

    If their parents and community do not value English-language proficiency and education, why should they?

    It is time to demand accountability from the parents and SAUSD. I know that blaming the cultural hindrances is not an option for the new Latino/Hispanic Champion version of Art Pedroza, but that really is the key. Too bad, because every day you and everyone else who can make a difference in Santa Ana ignores reality the kids get further behind.

    1. Rob,

      Bashing the parents solves nothing. Many of these people grew up in rural areas and don’t read and write. It is B.S. to heap scorn on them when really, they don’t know better.

      That said, immigrants tend to be hard workers. And living here is expensive. Parents often hold several jobs just to survive.

      Now those born here have less excuses. I don’t mean the kids, but rather the parents. The gang culture transcends many generations here in town. The gangs now are dealing drugs and making a mint, and that has made things worse.

      I think there are solutions out there but they don’t include hating these people. The local churches should be part of the equation – and they already do provide alternative schools, for example. And we have an awesome non-profit community that is also engaged in the effort, including excellent programs like Think Together.

      These people need our help, not our scorn.

  3. I’d like to see Art Pedroza run for School Board to represent parents are willing to roll the dice with their kids education and send them to Santa Ana schools. I love their blind faith and frugalness. I’d also like to see a few parents run for school board who live in the district but feel the schools are a failure and don’t want to put their kids in such rotten schools. I’d like to see some home school parents and parents of kids in private school run. They also represent a group of taxpaying parents who get nothing for their money since there are no vouchers currently available. We need choices when it comes to candidates in Santa Ana.

  4. Also, thanks for pointing out the positives in SAUSD, it is great to hear about those schools. I bet if you looked at the student body and sat down and asked them about their home lives, you’d find that my comments above about parental involvement and English-language proficiency are 100% accurate.

    Also, again, you’re obviously doing a fantastic job raising your kids – demand the same of every other parent, Art – stop blaming those who have no real stake in the success of all these failing kids. They deserve better.

    1. Rob,

      I hear you, and I understand your frustration. These are difficult times. But yes, we do have some successes that the Register should have noted. They too often slam us without presenting the entire picture.

      I do think that the growth of the Viet community is going to help improve the situation, but of course they are gravitating to our fundamental schools. We need more fundamental schools, as they hold parents accountable.

      Another reader commented about the brain drain. It is a problem, but many good students also have fled the SAUSD altogether, for private schools and schools in other districts.

      Teachers have so much to contend with. I feel awful for them. But the good ones know how to pull the best out of their students. Engaging the parents isn’t easy but it isn’t impossible either. Better administrators at the district level would help here.

      And I still think we need a Superintendent with experience turning around troubled districts with poor, minority populations. Jane Russo still appears to be quite clueless.

  5. Hi Art,

    Very good points! The biggest tragedy I see is the next generation of young teachers ready to take over this system but they’re shut out. They’re being told that there will be no openings for the next 4 years! I suppose they cannot wait that long to be employed, so they will look elsewhere, and we will be losing the ones that are ready to make a difference.

    However, I do have to disagree with you on the parenting part. Parents are the first ones that should be held responsible for our kids’ success! We are all “poor and struggling to survive”! That is not an excuse! In fact, there are no excuses when it comes to our children. It really does start at home.

    We HAVE to make parents accountable, as well as students, teachers, administrators, school boards, etc. If one part of the equation is left out, it won’t work!

    I couldn’t agree more: “If we are to turn things around it will be up to us” – the parents, as stakeholders in our school district and our city.

    Thanks Art, for your courage!

  6. Art – how is holding them responsible for their kid’s success “heaping scorn” on them? It isn’t at all! You’re absolutely right – they don’t know any better and they have very, very difficult lives. Positive reinforcement, community education, English classes for adults, encouragement, real-world explanations about the opportunities that await an educated family member – all of these things are critical. Just shrugging and essentially saying it cannot be helped will get us nowhere. These are mostly good, caring, hard-working parents who DO NOT value education because it has never been a part of their lives. They want their kids to succeed, but don’t have a realistic, practical application clue about why an eduaction is so important. Success is defined by their own experiences.

    The entire Latino/Hispanic community needs to reach out to the parents of the many, many thousands of kids wasting time in dead-end educational experiences. STOP accepting the status quo. STOP blaming everyone else. These are not dumb kids. An education starts and ends at home.

    1. Rob,

      I agree with you and Jackie. I am just saying that we don’t know what straits these people are in. And many of them lack the tools to do any better on their own.

      It is not unlike asking someone untrained in the arts to paint a masterpiece, when they don’t know how to color by numbers.

      The problem isn’t intellect. It is that these folks themselves grew up without much formal education. And now another generation is paying the price.

      We need to act, as a community, to head this off. These kids each have great potential. They just need help.

      I am reminded of Councilwoman Michele Martinez, who grew up in awful circumstances, and had to contend with dyslexia too. But she found mentors, or they found her, and she persevered. I am so proud of her accomplishments. She is what our local kids can aspire to…

  7. Art, I’m wondering …I just don’t know … how much of our student motivation problems come from seeing other students work their tails off, get top grades, then be unable to continue to college because undoc’d status cuts them out of the financial aid and student loans most take for granted.
    And, of course, those that do go on, get college degrees with honors, from our top universities (you’ve met one of mine) still can land only menial, under-the-counter jobs not requiring a degree. This summer two of my students have laboratory internships at UCI’s School of Physical Sciences. Working on the same project, one is getting a $4000. stipend, the other gets nothing for lack of a SSN, though a Santa Ana resident from the age of 5. This isn’t a secret among the student. I’m sure these stories play a significant role in why so many of our students don’t value education.
    What can we do? It’s absolutely astonishing how few people, including teachers at my own high school, have any correct understanding of the DREAM Act currently before congress. A summary: An undocumented student who 1) has lived in the US 5 years or more, 2) graduates from a U.S. high school, 3) is admitted to a U.S. college/university or enlists in the U.S. military, is given provisional residency and need not fear deportation while a student or in the military. Upon graduation, or completion of military service is given permanent residency with a path to citizenship. Now, There would be a reason to work your tail off to get decent grades and graduate.
    What can we do? Promote the DREAM Act, and let everyone know what it entails. The great majority of Americans, including most conservative anti-illegal immigration types, are good-hearted and have a strong sense of fairness. These young people committed no crime by being carried up here. People just have to know.

    1. SAHS Teacher,

      Amen! The Dream Act would give these kids something to hope for. I hope Congress passes it. It would make a huge difference!

    1. SAHS Teacher,

      Thanks for sharing that! My daughter Becky is interviewing tomorrow for an internship with a famous designer in Los Angeles. Cross your fingers!

  8. SAHS teacher – please, stop focusing on statistically trivial distractions like The Dream Act! The kids who can get into college are not the ones you are failing. It is the majority who drop out or do so poorly that they’ll never have a chance of going to any college.

    Seriously, that is your solution? No wonder SAUSD is in so muchg trouble…

  9. Rob,

    SAHS teacher is offering a solution to the puzzle as you and Predoza are. You are missing SAHSteache’s point or are ignoring it. IHer point is offer hope for opportunity. Alone none will succeed. Instead of criticising SAHS teacher and Pedroza you should embrace their ideas and suggest they get added to the solution pot.

    Why do you focuss only the the parents and suggest (Hispanics) “their parents cannot read, speak or write English, their culture does not respect – and often scorns – education, and they live in an insular world where the radio, TV, signage, businesses, churches, etc. are all Spanish-language.”

    “If their parents and community do not value English-language proficiency and education, why should they?”

    It is not true generally. Why the negative stereotype?? This does not offer anything positive or factual.

  10. I respect your personal experiences. However, may I suggest when writing a piece on academics that you thoroughly spell check your wording in order to maintain credibility on the matter.

    1. limey,

      If you see a misspelled word in my post, please let me know as I would be happy to correct it.

  11. 1) “too to track yet.” **Incorrect use of this word**

    2) “My son Joey just finished his junior year at Godinez, where is the number two ranked student on campus.” ** I added He for you**

    3) Also confusion with the use of That vs. This.

    Thank you in advance Admin!

    ps. Art, I agree 100% Santa Ana needs more libraries!! I am a huge fan of the OC county library system and the Orange City Library, SA should emulate these wonderful dens of learning. Lastly, thank you for highlighting the successful schools w/i the district!

  12. I am now a senior attending Godinez High School. I got to know Joey very well… I would like to say thank you to all of you for caring about our (SAUSD students) future. The staff, the parents and the students are all trying their best. We will succeed.

  13. Hola from Ireland and England,countries who’s liberal polices have turned them into cultural hell holes of immigrants on welfare and the Irish and English people completely disgusted with their goverments. Schools are becoming over crowded full of gangs and a host of single immigrant mothers are popping up all over these depressed and socialized decaying civalizations. England is more like Afganastan!

    Santa Ana schools suck for two reaons: Welfare and Political correct public employees(on all levels). The English especally are learing a very hard lesson, if you become a country that opens its door’s and becomes the nanny to the new immigrant population, then the new immigrant population will become the new trash of society! A plain and simple fact.

    Santa Ana needs to stop making kids fat by feeding them, stop allowing criminals into the schools (then there would be no need for their own brat police force). Give parents two options: get involved with your kids education or lose your taxpayer entitlements and stop employing bleeding heart liberals, instead employ people who want to educate and expect nothing less but excellence!

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