Improving teaching, boosting student achievement and tightening school discipline were among the goals established for the Big Oak Flat-Groveland Unified School District at a Board of Trustees workshop Monday.
The workshop was designed to acquaint the district’s new superintendent, former Summerville High School principal Dave Urquhart, with the board and lay the groundwork for his work in the coming months.
“Dave has been unanimously selected by the board,” said trustee Ed Quinn. “We are in total support of him … he needs to be assertive in the fact that he’s the educational leader of this district.”
Urquhart and the board discussed their expectations for each other before moving on to more specific goals for Big Oak Flat-Groveland.
Both sides stressed the importance of open communication, while Urquhart requested that the board trust him to run the “day to day business” of the district without micromanagement.
Trustee Ian Morcott suggested that Urquhart work on improving instruction at Tioga and Don Pedro high schools — a goal that later expanded to include the district’s third campus, Tenaya Elementary School.
Tioga High School has lost students to Sonora High School and Summerville High School in recent years as young people from the area seek Advanced Placement or career technical education programs at larger schools, according to students and board members.
As of a board meeting on July 11, the district had received 54 “interdistrict transfer” applications from students who would like to move out of the district next year.
Don Pedro High School has lost some students to Golden Lakes Charter School, a newly opened school near Don Pedro.
“How do we inspire students and impress parents to say, no, you want to come to this school?” asked board member John Infelise, referring to Tioga High School and Don Pedro High School.
He suggested forging a stronger “identity” for district schools, establishing them as excellent preparation for particular college paths or careers.
The trustees told Urquhart that they would like to see test scores improve and hear analysis of the score reports released every year by the California Department of Education.
“That’s what we’ve never had,” Quinn said.
The board said student discipline had become a concern this spring, when parents complained that their children felt unsafe at school.
Wendell Chun, the Oakdale-based education consultant who managed Monday’s workshop, said the solution was likely a matter of enforcing policies that already existed.
Chun was hired by Big Oak Flat-Groveland this spring to help conduct a search for a new superintendent, as well as a principal for Tenaya Elementary School. He waived the fee for Monday’s workshop because of his ongoing relationship with the district.