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August 22, 2006 > Which schools do we close?

Which schools do we close?

by Pat Jaurequi

Our board of education made a courageous decision last spring. Determined to ensure that the maximum resources possible are dedicated to teaching and learning, the Board voted to reduce spending on facilities and operations by closing two schools.

Now we must make an even more difficult - and much more emotional - decision. Which schools do we close?

As we make that decision, I am committed to keeping the community informed: through a series of public forums; at Back-to-School Night; on the district web site; through the local newspaper and other traditional media; through the New Haven News and school newsletters; and in our regular e-mail summaries of board meetings. We have made presentations before the City Council and community groups and on television.

In addition, this is the first in a series of updates I plan to share with staff and the many parents, community members and business leaders who have asked to be part of our distribution lists.

A lot of people still don't believe me when I say this, but we want the community's input as we make this decision; just as we wanted the community's input in crafting our Strategic Plan last year, just as we wanted the community's input before the decision to close schools was made last spring. Indeed, it was input from parents and teachers last spring that prompted us to recommend closing an elementary and a middle school after we initially considered closing two elementary schools.

No doubt, the decision to close schools will be criticized again during the next few weeks. Already, some people are making an effort to convince school board members to change their minds. The reality, though, is that we aren't the first district in Alameda County to have to close schools, and we won't be the last. Of the 17 other school districts in the county, 16 are experiencing declining enrollment, as families with school-age children continue to leave the Bay Area in search of affordable housing. Fewer students means less money from the state.

But declining enrollment is only one of the reasons for the changes we're making in New Haven, changes that also include the administrative and clerical ratios we adopted last spring, the new bell schedules that go into effect this fall, and our updated transportation policies. The other reason - the more important reason - is that more than half of the students in our district are not proficient in English/language arts and/or mathematics.

We are making progress, as standardized test scores will show. The dedication of our teachers and support staff is paying off. Still, we must direct more resources to teaching and learning if we are going to realize the most ambitious goal in our Strategic Plan: to reach 85 percent proficiency by 2010.

It's a goal worth our best effort, and I appreciate how hard people are working to attain it.

Pat Jaurequi
New Haven Unified School District

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