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State of the schools is improving, challenges still remain, superintendent says

One goal is to better engage with English learner families

Published in the September 28 – October 11, 2016 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Staff Report

betando-steve

Superintendent Steve Betando

At the inaugural State of the Schools address, Morgan Hill Unified School District Superintendent Steve Betando told about 70 audience members about the successes and challenges local public schools face.

Sponsored by Morgan Hill Life, the two-hour event was held Sept. 15 at the Morgan Hill Community and Cultural Center to give all residents interested in education an overview on what is happening in the local district and the vision of where the district might go. A video of the State of the Schools address can be viewed at www.morganhilllife.com

“The state of our schools is, as a community, the state of our future. And the future begins with our 8,700 students who attend class daily on one of our 14 campuses,” Betando said in opening the address.

One challenge for the district is that 41 percent of its students come from economically disadvantaged households, he said.

“There is little we can do to control the lack of family income, but we must do everything possible, and strive to do more to help and support every student in our district whether advantaged or disadvantaged,” he said. “What is interesting however is that in Morgan Hill, even with a majority of the households above the poverty level, 92 percent of those children are below the Kindergarten reading level when students enter our Kindergarten classes.”

By third grade, the key turning point for students in education, 77 percent of those same students are at or above a third grade reading level, he said. Although the district is proud of that, it still has plenty of room to grow, Betando said

“We know from the numbers I just cited that there are outside forces fighting our quest to reach 100 percent. But we will not give up on obtaining full literacy for all students,” he said.

Under the leadership of Dr. Ramon Zavala, assistant superintendent of educational services, the district’s English Learner Master Plan is becoming an “overarching plan” in the district that provides coherent PreK-12 pathways to engage all English learners in high-level multilingual learning opportunities, Betando said in his address.

“Imagine, all English learners in MHUSD schools to be academically successful, as well as fluent and literate in two or more languages,” he said. “It’s happening now for some English learners and intentional actions are being taken so we are able to reach all English learners.”

For the district to achieve its vision for English learner success, it needs to engage better with English learner families and communities to participate in the process, he said.
It plans to do this in several ways, including redesigning and administering an enhanced English learner family survey to determine strengths, resources, and needs of EL families. It also intends to establish parent centers at each school.

Financial challenges also confront MHUSD, Betando said. In comparing Morgan Hill Unified to other unified districts in Santa Clara County, Morgan Hill ranks lowest in local control funding formula funding. The highest funded district in the county receives about $2,350 more per student — or 30 percent more per student — than Morgan Hill Unified receives in LCFF funds, he said.

The district faces employment challenges as well, Betando said.

“Like the majority of school districts across California, we are struggling to recruit new, high quality teachers. This problem stems from the high cost of living in and around Morgan Hill and how MHUSD is funded by the state,” he said.