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Improving academic performance and environment

Posted: September 20, 2008 8:42 p.m.
Updated: November 22, 2008 5:00 a.m.

It was one of those moments we educators thrive upon - receipt of test scores that placed our students at the top of the heap in a state that bears a reputation for underachievement in education.

Recently, we learned that William S. Hart Union High School District students scored above the state's goal in the Academic Performance Index put forth by the California Department of Education.

In fact, our district was rated No. 1 in the state for union high school districts of 10,000-plus students! I want to personally congratulate our students, teachers, and parents for this exceptional achievement.

While our teaching staff has done an outstanding job, I cannot discount the many improvements to our district's facilities as having played a major role in this recent success. Creating a high-quality learning environment is essential to scholastic achievement and improved test scores.

In 2001, the passing of Measure V enabled the district to add $158 million (which became $489 million when leveraged state funds were added) to fund several academic improvement projects, including building four new schools and modernizing six schools.

As a result, overcrowding was decreased, modern technologies became accessible, and an overall improved learning atmosphere came to exist for our deserving students. I wholeheartedly believe that this improvement to our students' daily educational environment played a major role in achieving exceptional API scores.

These scores serve as proof that Measure V served our community well.

That being said, I am confident the passing of Measure SA would continue to enhance the increase in students' academic performance. Measure SA is set to appear on the Nov. 4 ballot essentially asking taxpayers to contribute an additional $5 for every $100,000 of assessed property value.

The result is a $300 million bond (plus any leveraged state funds) that will continue to support the progress our students have accomplished.

The return on this small investment will be huge. For one, Measure SA will continue to relieve overcrowding by adding a high school in the Castaic area and other classroom facilities where needed.

It will ensure local classrooms meet modern fire and safety requirements; repair failing, outdated electrical, plumbing, heating, and ventilation systems; and improve access for students with disabilities.

Measure SA will also provide residual benefits to the community by increasing property values, in step with the trend that suggests higher achievement in the scholastic arena of a community makes the area more desirable.

The bottom line is this: The passing of Measure SA will provide the means necessary for our students to continue the progress they have made in recent years.

The facts don't lie ... our students' performance is steadily improving from an API score of 760 in 2005 to our recent score of 804.

We must enable the future of our community to continue performing at this exceptional level. The passing of Measure SA will do exactly that.

Jaime L. Castellanos is superintendent of the William S. Hart Union High School District. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.


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