Moving forward with our high schools
March 10, 2014
Our high schools are jewels in our community. In a small, close-knit community like ours in western Nevada County, the schools are more of a focal point than in many other places.
Schools here represent jobs and careers, sources of entertainment and culture and places where many local alumni remember their youth. But most importantly, they are the resources that educate our youth — future members of our local workforce or ambassadors attending universities and pursuing other endeavors around the world. Graduates carry with them the values, skills and knowledge that they have learned here, and the community wants them to succeed.
I am a proud alumnus of Nevada Union High School, class of 1979, as well as a parent of students receiving high-quality education there. Our schools have given us much of which we can be proud: championship sports and debate teams, entertaining dance and arts programs, top ag programs, graduates attending top universities around the country and high student test scores.
And the community, in turn, supports our schools financially, socially and politically.
The Nevada Joint Union High School District is both large and complex with five campuses, 3,000 students and a budget of about $30 million. And now, our district is facing challenges on a number of fronts. While the state budget for education is brighter, our district will not benefit due to our demographics. Nevada Union's accreditation is up for review with increased scrutiny as the school was only given a three-year extension last time, rather than the customary six-year cycle our schools have become accustomed to. Pot and drug use are a constant battle, burying administrators with discipline issues when they would much rather be implementing positive programs to bring the student bodies together.
As George Boardman pointed out in his column (The Union, Feb. 17), the decision process by the school board has raised some concerns, but it is time to turn the page and support the leadership we have in place now. Dr. Louise Johnson was selected as the new superintendent of the Nevada Joint Union High School District last summer. She has a strong track record, is extremely sharp and is a good listener.
For Dr. Johnson and her team to be successful, she will need the support of all stakeholders, including the community. She spent the first months of her tenure observing and collecting input, then assembled a summit team to work with her in articulating a strategic plan to 2020. This plan will be refined and communicated in the coming weeks. A refreshing process is under way.
We need to move the conversation forward to questions about how the community can best support our schools, including students, facilities, teachers, classified staff and administrators. If you think you could do a better job as a trustee on the district's board, then get your name on the ballot this fall and tell us how you will make a difference. But let us please end the counterproductive pot shots at board members who are working hard, dealing with tough issues and making some tough calls that actually appear to be showing some positive results. And parents, there is a new Parents' Club at Nevada Union that would love your participation.
Change does not happen over night. Dr. Johnson will need time and support, and all of us will require effective two-way communication. Stay tuned and look to participate where you can. I think we are in for a transformative ride.
David Heppe lives in Nevada City.