CHAMBER CHIT CHAT

By Ken Rausch, Executive Director

In the past few weeks, we had the opportunity to host an event with our local school districts, “Principal for a Day”.  It was a chance for our Chamber of Commerce members to tour a school campus with a Principal in the El Monte City School and Union High School District, concluding with a luncheon at the Chamber office where everyone shared their unique experiences.

At the gracious invitation of our newly appointed El Monte City Schools Superintendent, Dr. Maribel Garcia, and our special tour guide, Oscar Marquez, Director of Student Support Services, we were invited to visit four City School campuses to see how lucky our students are to attend such a visionary school system.  I would like to share with you our thoughts of what we experienced.

Our first stop was at New Lexington School which has about 407 students in the grades K – 8.   The first impression on every campus that we visited was the cleanliness and organization of the surroundings.  In addition, every student and teacher demonstrated a code of politeness that was refreshing.  At Lexington, we met with Mr. Donald Lopreiato, a 19 year veteran of the District.  Mr. Lopreiato teaches a class for computer skills for parents, that’s correct parents, so that these parents can be better engaged with their children’s curriculum. Truly a special and rewarding experience for these achieving parents.

Next, we were off to Portrero School which has about 900 students.  One of the traits that impressed us was the accountability for performance that is in place at every school.  The teachers are not only responsible for their performance, but that of the student’s as well.  We were introduced to the AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) program which is a college readiness and success curriculum for average students. Complemented by the El Monte PROMISE Scholarship program, the City School District is teaching the value of a college education in our elementary schools and the PROMISE is backing it up with available tuition scholarships; what a winning combination!

Perhaps the most “eye-opening” campus we visited was Loma School, a Community Education Center.  This campus has about 30 students who are challenged with learning and discipline behavior. Without this school, these students would be lost in their future endeavors.  The academic curriculum is similar to the other District schools, in addition to instructing the students on the importance of personal responsibility and organization. It is a valuable alternative to having the students “drop out” of school.

Our final stop was Durfee School which has about 1100 students in the grades K – 8.  This large campus is under the experienced watch of Principal, Dianna Mercado, who is literally everywhere on campus and engaged in the student community.  While at Durfee, we sat in on Ms. Sarah Hulse’s Science Class who boasts the highest science scores in the District. We found Ms. Hulse’s class to be focused on the curriculum, but fun as well.

In closing, I would like to address the culture of accountability of teachers and students that is in place throughout the District.  It would be very difficult for any student to “fall through the cracks” in terms of their performance.  In the State of California, a academic measure of a school district is the Academic Program Index, where a score of   800 is expected. Nine out of ten schools in our District reached or exceeded this goal, with the one other school at 797.  These objective scores represents that the District is performing well in terms of California’s accountability on academic performance.  We applaud the efforts of past Superintendent Jeff Seymour and Dr. Maribel Garcia in their dedicated efforts to make the El Monte City School District the best in the State of California.

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