One year ago, Dave Cortese, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, eloquently declared 2011 the Year of the Child. Many of his priorities had to do with juvenile justice and ending the incarceration of our youth in the juvenile hall. In addition, he supported a closer working relationship with schools.
To meet the needs of our children, many whom are so painfully hurting, we must continue some of the bold work President Cortese addressed. Our commitment to children must be ongoing and targeted for the biggest impact. It is essential for government never to work at cross-purposes or with redundant expenditures, especially in tough economic times.
“Each of us must come to care about everyone else’s children,” says Lilian Katz, Professor Emeritus of Early Childhood Education at the University of Illinois. “We must recognize that the welfare of our children is intimately linked to the welfare of all other people’s children.” No doubt, we must work as a village if we truly are going to turn the tide for the quality of life of all children.
Second to the family, the Silicon Valley public education system must be the institution that charts the course for these new horizons of hope. The 31 districts in Santa Clara County (way too many districts in my opinion) are working diligently to eradicate the achievement gap and are doing so in an environment where funding has been considerably reduced.
Even though there is much room for improvement, our schools and their faculty deserve our respect and gratitude. All personnel in the system of public education have been asked by societal needs to do more with less.
In 2012, education must be evaluated in its role not only as a significant portion of expense—40-plus percent of the state budget—but also as an important revenue generator. For example, if there is a 2 percent increase in college degree acquisition, it will lead to a 1 percent increase in personal income for the entire region, or a total of $1.4 billion aggregate personal income every year.
In his 2011 State of the County speech, President Cortese called for a resolution in support of the A-G requirements (high school subjects on transcript to be eligible for entrance to UC/CSU systems). And with a mental health grant School Linked Services were revitalized between county government, nonprofits, and school districts.
Most drug and alcohol intervention, mental health counseling, student-case management, and public health services belong on school campuses. School Linked Services keeps that goal in place and eventually creates a village that recognizes that every child is our child. In 2012, we must find additional resources in our village to ensure that we never again reduce the school-level programs that treat the neediest children with love and care while they learn and grow.
This year, school boards must develop local policies that address the urgency of the gap by implementing best (proven) practices in the schools with the lowest achievement data. A short list of bold initiatives can include replacing the weakest teachers at these identified schools with the best through a comparative examination of results, and negotiating collective bargaining agreements with small pilot programs that re-think tenure and performance-pay options.
Leaders such as the board of trustees, superintendents and union leaders should evaluate these pilot model programs’ success or lack thereof in three- to five-year spans.
The SCCOE Board of Trustees in 2011 coalesced governance priorities around the bold initiative of SJ/SV 2020, ending the racial achievement gap in eight years. Most districts in the Silicon Valley village have signed on to the goal, each developing their own plan. However, San Jose is the only city that has done so.
In 2012, the SCCOE should work to see that the other 12 cities in the county sign and endorse the goal. In 2012, the Board of Supervisors should also validate the goal through a discussion and resolution. If the village works together in strategic ways, with best practices becoming the norm and not the exception, we can ensure success for all children.
Then and only then will we successfully recognize that the welfare of our children is linked to the welfare of all children. If the leaders of this village make their 2012 decisions based on Katz’s clarion call to action it will be a great year, from which we can build a better village. If the children do well, we all do well.
Happy New Year to all!