During a Nevada Joint Union High School District board meeting on May 14, members of the Bear River Community Parent group aired its concerns about the board’s lack of community engagement around academic services, faculty layoffs and district budgeting.
But after a May 28 town hall meeting centered around the district’s 2014-15 school year budget and new Local Control Accountability Plan, also known as the LCAP — a new funding model for California schools — the parent group is optimistic about Bear River High School’s future and their role in helping to craft that future.
“It was great; a lot of people showed up from the community,” Bear River Community Parent group President Susan Kirk said. “The board heard our concerns from the board meeting previously, and they answered some of our concerns in a very positive way. So we’re happy that we are working with them and they are receptive to what we have requested.”
The board provided all town hall attendees with a copy of the district’s proposed budget, splitting the audience into several small groups. Board members and district staff then sat with each individual group to address any concerns or questions that community members had.
Bear River High School Principal Jim Nieto attended the town hall and helped the community understand what the district’s funding looks like while getting perspective from parents on what their kidsneed.
“Some parents expressed concerns about how the funding formula was going to work and wanted to make sure their voices were going to be heard,” Nieto said. “I do feel now that they all feel that they are being included in that process.”
District board President Katy Schwarz said the town hall was beneficial not only for parents, but for the board. “Parents are concerned about losing teachers, and that’s what happens when you have declining enrollment, so we’re trying to work with them on that,” Schwarz said. “There are a lot of community members down there that would be so beneficial and helpful in us working together.”
To tackle the school’s decline in enrollment, parent group member Sonia Delgadillo said parents want to help in branding Bear River as a destination for future high school students in an attempt to keep students at their school from moving to out-of-county districts.
“I don’t think we’ve been able to reach out to the community as well as we should be,” Delgadillo said. “There are so many great programs and accomplishments that Bear River students have every year, and we need to make sure people know about these things so they can understand what Bear River has to offer students and their families.”
In March, the Bear River Future Farmers Association competed in the Agriculture Mechanics contest at the University of California Davis where they took first place at the team event, with students Emma Jones placing third, and Shane Green placing fourth in the individual ranking.
“That program benefits our students because they learn social and communication skills that are necessary for them to be successful in life after high school,” Delgadillo said.
Kirk added that the town hall meeting helped to make parents feel comfortable in participating in spreading the word about Bear River and its positive aspects.
“We feel like we have a good relationship with the board,” Kirk said. “They listened to our concerns and really broke everything down for us. So we want to push forward to let the community know what we have at this school and how we can make it better for our students.”
While members of the parent group say they are pleased with this first step in becoming involved in the budget process, they still want to see specific changes in Bear River’s academic services — sooner than later.
“We are happy the district listened to us and heard our concerns,” Delgadillo said. “But we are still concerned and pushing for restoration of a full-time librarian, not just a part-time librarian that the district has proposed, because it is very important for our students to have specialized staff that can help them in their academics. A librarian is an extremely important and integral part of that process.”
Principal Nieto said that the board plans to continue to include input gathered from parents and community members from the town hall at a June 11 board meeting, where district Superintendent Louise Johnson will give a presentation for the public on what academic services the board and community want to prioritize.
Nieto says the next board meeting is just another step in the process of building a bridge between the community and the district. “In the fall we’ll … continue that work,” Nieto said. “Because even though the plan has kind of a three-year layout, annually you kind of take a look at it and revise it. And we’ll do that together.”
To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.