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CHS proficiency goals fall short, district issues support for immigrant students

Claremont Unified School District’s board of education heard about high school students’ math struggles and reiterated support for immigrant students at the district’s October 5 board meeting.

First, Claremont High School principal Brett O’Connor delivered the results of the school’s Single Plan for Student Achievement, which set academic and social goals for the past year.

The high school didn’t meet its English language arts or math state standards goals. The percentage of students who met or exceeded state English standards increased from 77 to 78.7 percent, but fell short of the 81 percent goal, while the percentage meeting or exceeding math standards dropped from 50 percent to 49.6 percent. The goal was 56 percent proficiency.

“We’re trying different things” to increase math proficiency, Mr. O’Connor said, including various tailored math classes. “We didn’t get the results we want, but we’re continuing these interventions to improve in that area.”

CHS was more successful at combating bullying. Just 18.4 percent of students reported being bullied last school year, well under the 25-percent goal and 28.3-percent initial mark.

“I was really delighted to see the decrease in bullying,” board member Nancy Treser Osgood said. “I applaud the opportunities you have for anonymous reporting.”

Several board members praised the bullying box CHS recently began using, which allows students to physically submit anonymous complaints and requests for school administrators to read. Mr. O’Connor said students are using the box more frequently, and not just to report instances of bullying.

“Kids are free to express other concerns,” he said. “We had a teacher that was using a certain term that one student really felt [was] offensive, and the teacher really had no clue. That was a nice vehicle for that student.”

Though the school made progress in reducing the percentage of African American, low-income and disabled students who received at least one D or F at the end of the school year, its goals weren’t met in those three categories.

Mr. O’Connor concluded by setting new goals for this coming year, which included further reductions in the percentage of students who get Ds and Fs, decreasing bullying and raising the Hispanic completion rate for University of California and California State University a-g classes.

Courses from California high schools and online schools used to satisfy the “a-g” subject requirements must be approved by UC and appear on an institution’s “a-g” course list.

“The ninth graders, when they receive their first triad progress report next week, will get ‘Got College?’ card inserts, which emphasize the a-g,” Mr. O’Connor said.

In the district overall, 65 percent of students met or exceeded the state English standards and 49 percent met or exceeded the math standards, ranking Claremont third among nearby districts. Glendora (68 percent English, 56 percent math) and Bonita (68 percent English, 54 percent math) were the top two districts.

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In the midst of a charged national discussion surrounding immigration, assistant superintendent of student services Mike Bateman issued a statement of support for immigrant students and families in the district.

“As always, we’re committed to providing a safe learning environment for all our students,” Mr. Bateman said. “Immigrants or not, we welcome all students.”

Families are not asked about their immigration status, Mr. Bateman said, so the district doesn’t know how many of its students are undocumented or recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but he estimates there are 10 to 15.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed landmark sanctuary state legislation October 5 prohibiting California police from asking people about their immigration status or cooperating with federal immigration enforcement, and CUSD is similarly dedicated to protecting undocumented immigrants.

Mr. Bateman said student records are only shared with parental permission or if the person requesting the record has a valid warrant, subpoena or court order.

Additionally, he said, federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are not allowed to visit sensitive locations such as schools.

“The only way they could come on a campus is if they had a warrant or subpoena or search order,” Mr. Bateman emphasized. “Then we have to work with them, but we will not allow anybody to come onto one of our campuses without one of those valid legal documents.”

Claremont resident Jennifer Rachford, who said she hails from a family of immigrants, expressed concern over current federal immigration rhetoric during public comment. Ms. Rachford, 44, beseeched the school board to assure students’ safety, provide training to staff and advocate on behalf of its students.

“We cannot be conflicted and confused about the support for the students in our classroom,” Ms. Rachford said.

In response to requests from board members, Mr. Bateman said the district would create a flyer with information and support for immigrants to be distributed to students and families.

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Out of a panel of 50 applicants, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Kevin Ward recommended Rria Cruz-Soto to be Mountain View Elementary School’s new principal. His recommendation was approved by the board.

The principal of Seymour Dual Language Academy in Syracuse, New York since 2014, Ms. Cruz-Soto has also served as dean of students at a New York middle school, spent six years as a sixth-grade teacher and taught Spanish to high schoolers.

“Her infectious smile and warmth I think will really resonate with the Mountain View community and CUSD,” Mr. Ward said.

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Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Julie Olesniewicz announced that CUSD received a $18,700 arts grant from the Los Angeles County Arts Ed Collective, which aims to “to support Los Angeles County school districts aiming to provide quality arts education for public school students,” she said.

The district, as a condition of the grant, will provide matching funds for CUSD’s art programs, which must be used by the end of the 2017-18 school year.

—Kellen Browning

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