Schools report is first ever

Brenna Swift, The Union Democrat

The Calaveras County Office of Education is distributing its first "Annual Report to the Community," part of a larger effort to inform the public about local schools.

The report, released in October, gives information on high school classes, the county office's objectives, school financing systems in California, and other topics.

Calaveras County Superintendent of Schools Kathy Northington, elected in 2010, said the report's publication has been one of her goals.

Larger county offices of education commonly publish reports on education in their jurisdictions.

"It's something we're trying to do on an annual basis," Northington said. "I wanted to start getting a stronger connection with the community, and the only way we can do that is with a report."

Copies are now available at school offices, and Northington said she would like to distribute them to local establishments like coffee shops. Donations from local businesses funded the printing.

Much of the report focuses on career technical education at Bret Harte High School and Calaveras High School. The two schools now offer a range of career technical classes, from animation at Calaveras High to fire technology at Bret Harte High.

Career Technical Education classes teach specialized skills and help students prepare for trades, some of which they may enter immediately after high school.

Many students take both career technical courses and college preparatory courses, but career tech proponents say the programs boost graduation rates among students who might otherwise drop out.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson has made Career Technical Education a priority, spearheading a "California Career Readiness Initiative" with career tech as its centerpiece and working to preserve funds for the programs.

The Calaveras County report highlights Career Technical Education as a way for students to prepare for career paths while earning diplomas.

Many high schools have beefed up Career Technical Education course offerings in recent years, with Tuolumne County's Summerville High and Sonora High both adding new agriculture classes this year.

Bret Harte High Superintendent and Principal Mike Chimente said the school hasn't added new classes, but existing courses incorporate an ever-increasing range of technologies.

For example, students in woodworking classes can now create drawings on a computer that cuts the wood for parts of their projects.

"As students move through the courses, more and more technology is infused so they can become more competent in the workplace," Chimente said.

Despite deep budget cuts at the state level, Calaveras High School has been able to continue offering its full range of Career Technical Education classes, said Calaveras Unified School District Superintendent Mark Campbell.

Many Bret Harte High students attend medical science classes at Calaveras High, and Calaveras High students take advantage of Bret Harte's fire technology courses.

Campbell said he thinks the Office of Education report will prove useful in letting the public know that Career Technical Education is weathering the turmoil in school funding.

The Oct. 12 report has a section on school finance, detailing total revenues from property taxes and state funds at each Calaveras County district. Calaveras Unified, with about 3,300 students, took in a total of about $25.5 million in revenue last year. The Calaveras County Office of Education received $8.4 million.

California voters will decide Nov. 6 on a tax increase, Proposition 30, that proponents say would prevent more funding cuts to education. Northington said she hopes the Office of Education report will help voters make informed decisions on all ballot issues relating to schools.

"Almost always there's something on the ballot about schools," she said.

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The Union Democrat
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