No decisions were made at a special workshop Wednesday night about general goals for the Lodi Unified School District, but trustees discussed issues ranging from reducing class sizes from kindergarten through third grade, to student and staff safety on its campuses.
Decisions weren't made on the five-year strategic plan primarily because there was no information about how much it would cost to carry out whatever issues board members brought up.
But the issue that dominated much of the three-hour workshop was the "Common Core Standards" that the state is requiring all schools to follow beginning with the 2015-16 school year.
"It's going to be a lot of what we do," Lodi Unified Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer told the board.
"The testing will be different than anything we've ever done," trustee George Neely added.
Under the Common Core Standards program, teachers will be facilitators for students rather than spending time lecturing in front of the class, said Dawn Vetica, assistant superintendent for secondary schools.
The complex set of standards is more computer-based, and it's designed to make students think, Vetica said.
Regarding the district's five-year plan, trustees Joe Nava and Ron Heberle agreed that it would be hard to set priorities for all aspects of district operations without knowing how much it would cost to carry out each goal, especially the state's Common Core Standards.
Nichols-Washer said she couldn't provide a price tag until the state Legislature adopts its budget and Gov. Jerry Brown signs it.
At a meeting on May 14, the school board will devote an entire evening to defining what the Common Core Standards are and brainstorming how Lodi Unified will transition into the new state-mandated system.
Some other topics that received high priority from Lodi Unified board members during Wednesday's workshop:
- Literacy — To ensure that children in early grades learn to read, Neely said class size must be decreased to about 24 students per class in at least kindergarten and first grade, and if possible, up to the third grade. Heberle said that new teachers should be hired early enough so they can be trained to teach literacy in the early grades before the first day of school.
- Parent involvement — The district should not only urge parents to be involved, but expect them to actively monitor their children's schoolwork and help them with their homework, according to Heberle. Perhaps the more active Parent-Teacher Associations in the district could help develop how to get other parents more involved with their children's education, Heberle said.
- Technology — Integrating technology is important because students and teachers will need to use it more and more, Neely said, and teachers need to be trained to use the technology they have access to.
- Campus safety — Nava said he doesn't want any violent tragedies like the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., to occur in Lodi. Board President Ralph Womack said the district definitely needs to study the issue.
"We don't want to have fortresses," Womack said, and he also opposes arming teachers.
Nichols-Washer said she will prepare a more refined draft strategic plan based on board members' comments on Wednesday when she gets some better cost estimates.
Board members asked her to focus first on reducing class sizes for the lower grades and providing cost estimates as quickly as possible so that more teachers can be hired to accommodate smaller class sizes in time for the next school year.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at email@example.com.