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Study skills program safe this year despite state cuts

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Posted: Saturday, August 4, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:15 am, Sat Aug 4, 2012.

Hundreds of students on the verge of falling through the cracks on the path to college have a safety net they call AVID. It stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination, and offers study skills to middle-tier students and helps them with college applications.

Worry rose over the future of the program when Gov. Jerry Brown did not include AVID funding in his June budget. But local school officials say the program is safe.

Sheree Flemmer, principal at Millswood Middle School, confirmed that the two AVID classes her school offers, as well as those elsewhere in the district, are fine — for now

"According to our county representative, the county has the funds to continue their support this year so our classes for this year are not affected," she said. "However, for next year it will be a school/district cost to continue with the support for AVID personnel, workshops and materials."

Through the funding has been cut, there are enough trained teachers within the district to keep the program alive. Lodi Unified has one district coach, Cindy Mettler, certified to support AVID.

At least some teachers at each of Lodi's secondary schools and even a few elementary schools are trained in AVID techniques. They attended training in Sacramento this summer to brush up on their skills.

"We will be continuing to offer AVID. This is not going to deter us from that path," said Catherine Pennington, assistant superintendent of elementary education. "This is definitely a program the board supports."

Instead, the district is expanding its AVID offerings.

Pennington is looking into possiblities to add more AVID programs to elementary schools. At that level, AVID study skills are blended into the standard curriculum instead of holding a separate class such as in the higher grades.

Anyone can join AVID, but it targets disadvantaged groups, including minorities, first-generation students and at-risk children. Students learn how to take Cornell University-style notes and get the most out of a presentation, and they are introduced to college-bound culture.

Most of the 15,000 AVID students graduating high school last year met the requirements for getting into the University of California and California State University systems, said district staff.

Under the current system, county offices of education administer the AVID program, providing teacher support and training. These staff members were paid by the state.

The governor's decision will likely not affect either the elementary or high school districts in Galt. In fact, both programs seem to be growing.

At Galt High School, there will be three AVID courses offered when school starts Aug. 15, according to Principal Maria Orr.

"The AVID model has served our students by providing the foundation skills and the background knowledge needed to be college ready," she said.

She plans to work with the school's AVID teachers, its AVID coordinator and the district to discuss next steps in light of the line veto.

Positive student performance has led to the increase of course offerings at McCaffrey Middle School in the Galt Joint Union Elementary School District for fall, according to Superintendent Karen Schauer.

Two additional teachers were trained this summer at an AVID conference in Sacramento.

Whether or not there is reduced state funding for AVID, the district will continue the program for middle school students, Schauer said this week.

"We have had strong support from AVID leadership at the Sacramento County Office of Education to help us develop and implement an effective program," she said.

News-Sentinel staff writer Jennifer Bonnett contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com. For more information about local education issues, read our Education Café blog.

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