State Superintendent of schools Torlakson visits Nevada County schools |

State Superintendent of schools Torlakson visits Nevada County schools

California Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson, the state's top education official, sits in on a discussion about William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" Tuesday moring at a Ghidotti Early College High School in Grass Valley.
Chrisopher Rosacker/ |

California’s top education official dropped by three Grass Valley schools Tuesday to peruse what he described as their “model” programs.

“(Nevada County) can be proud of their schools and their hard-working students,” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson during his visit to Nevada Union High School, Ghidotti Early College High School and Lyman Gilmore School.

Ghidotti, a nontraditional high school program located on the Sierra College campus, has the state’s ninth highest Academic Performance Index rating, Torlakson said.

The Ghidotti education model offers a small supportive learning environment to students as they work to complete a high school diploma while graduating with 30-60 transferable college credits. Graduates leave prepared to enter a four-year college or attend a community college to complete transfer credits or an AA/AS degree.

“There is a lot of optimism from students, and teachers have high expectations for them,” Torlakson said during his tour of Ghidotti. “You always like to see that.”

At Ghidotti, a transgender student asked Torlakson about AB 1266, which allows transgender students to play on sports teams and use bathrooms of the gender they identify with.

Though Torlakson supported the legislation and Gov. Jerry Brown signed it into law, opponents continue to seek signatures outside Grass Valley stores and across the state to put the matter on the November 2014 ballot.

“I think it’s a big help in the right direction,” Torlakson told the student.

His assistant, Alyssa Hanou, also told the transgender student that the petition is not looking like it will garner the requisite 505,000 valid signatures to make it to the ballot.

Torlakson also visited Nevada Union High School, where he toured agricultural and industrial classes, as well as the Partnership Academy, a separate, interdisciplinary studies program at the school. Torlakson took particular interest in the school’s technology, citing his No Child Left Offline initiative.

“The goal is one-to-one computing capacity, to have a computer for every kid in every class. It is a big goal and may take us 10 years to get there, but I’m hoping we can do it in five,” Torlakson said.

“We’re seeing technology as game-changers, and the use of computers has really helped individualize instruction and letting students work and accelerate at their own pace. It enriches the whole learning environment.”

At Lyman Gilmore middle school, Torlakson was greeted with a choir and band and visited the Salmon Egg Science Center, a geography project using iPads.

He was also given a tour of the computer lab and observed a science experiment, because the superintendent was a science teacher.

Torlakson’s visit to Nevada County was spurred by an invitation from Holly Hermansen, the Nevada County Superintendent of Education, who oversees all schools in the county.

“Holly Hermansen said there were great things going on and I had to see it firsthand,” Torlakson said.

“Your superintendents have a lot to be proud of. I will remember this when I get a chance to travel to other parts of the state to make my case. I testify a lot in front of the (state) senate and assembly and talk to the governor and his team and I will tell them I saw some cool programs in Nevada County.”

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email or call 530-477-4236.

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