Bear River, the little school that can
June 3, 2014
On May 14, the Nevada Joint Union High School District held its monthly board meeting at Bear River High School — "The Other Comprehensive High School."
Community members expressed concerns primarily focused on disproportionate cuts and services to South County students and requests for community input in decisions regarding the school as required by state law and the district's strategic plan. Good news was also shared by the students, principal and Bear River Community Parents Club (BRCPG) president. Unfortunately, none of that made it into the news. Instead, NU ruled the following week — another principal, vandalism and WASC.
As a Bruin parent, allow me to share some good news. Bear River has had consistent administration; Mr. (Jim) Nieto has been principal for many years. During its last review, WASC gave Bear River the maximum six-year accreditation. From U.S. News and World Report, Bear River received a Silver Award, ranking 301 in the state with 31 percent of students taking AP courses and an 86-percent pass rate. It has consistently exceeded the state goal of 800 API.
FFA students gave an impressive presentation to the board highlighting the group's achievements. With only two ag teachers supporting 276 FFA students, participants still have the opportunity to participate on 14 different Career Development Events teams that are highly competitive. Bear River FFA fielded the most ag mechanics team players and the most consistently competitive ag mechanics team in the state this year. In the area of FFA Leadership CDE, it fielded more state finalist players than any other chapter and tallied the second most points at the state Finals, second only to Tulare Union, which has 876 FFA members and seven ag teachers. The students also showed a well-produced and entertaining video of the seniors demonstrating pride in their program, each other and their school.
Next, the BRCPG president introduced the organization to the board. This 501(c)(3)organization, created last year, has been dedicated to supporting the school's teachers, programs and students. South County businesses have supported this effort with donations and contributions. Last weekend, it held the second annual Bear River Pickers Flea Market. In its short time, this organization has raised funds for classroom supplies, clay for art class, library books and several thousand toward a new tricaster. This year is has also honored the hardworking teachers by recognizing the Teacher Who Makes a Difference, Mrs. Weir, and providing an appreciation lunch for the staff.
During my comments, I reminded the board of the many outstanding qualities of Bear River. Bear River is small; it's a place where everybody knows your name, so you won't get lost in the crowd. Though small, it is a comprehensive high school. This means it offers experiences and programs that develop the whole student. Aside from FFA, other award-winning programs include the nationally recognized Odyssey of the Mind team and band and choral programs, including Starlite Express, the only high school show choir in Nevada and Placer counties. And the small dramatic program continues to produce beautifully costumed and staged, award-nominated shows.
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A smaller high school population also means students have a better chance to play on the sports teams, be part of the drama or choral groups or take on leadership positions; they aren't competing against hundreds of students for a few slots. And students at Bear River have found success in sports. This year girls' volleyball and softball teams were Pioneer Valley League champions. Students come in all shapes, sizes and interests. Many clubs try to fit those interests including the Key and Leo clubs, which perform community service; BruiNation, which promotes school spirit; and FATS (Film and Theaters) and Acting Out, which fill a niche for the artistically minded. There are the traditional hallmarks of high school, as well, such as yearbook, school dances and homecoming.
But returning to the topic academics, Bear River students have had resources and experienced teachers to support their academic and career goals. Some of the top colleges grads will be heading to next fall include Dartmouth, Santa Clara University, Reed College, the U.S. Air Force Academy and Cal Poly. Finally, the school's campus is a beautiful tree-dotted space with a lovely theater and pool that were built during the past 10 years with taxpayer-supported bonds.
Bear River should be viewed as an asset, a unique offering, by the district, and it must be given the attention and support to thrive. Departing senior and ASB vice president Shane Green stated to the board, "I'm proud of my little school." Our community should be proud of the little school that can — Bear River High.
Sonia Delgadillo lives in Grass Valley.