“Public education is more important than ever. Our political divide in this country is sharp, and it feels like it’s growing wider, not back together. We need to teach our students ​— ​and frankly, our adults ​— ​how to have civil, intelligent discourse about the issues we face as a culture. And we also need to reinvent public education to prepare students for the world of today and the future, not the world of the past. That’s a real challenge for us … because we’re not well funded [and] we have a lot of cultural memories of what it means to be educators. We’re working hard to change our models.”
Paul Wellman

On the ground, the job is tough enough. How can Santa Barbara Unified School District continue to provide safe campuses, functional electrical and plumbing, and modernized classrooms designed to grow kids’ curiosity and critical thinking? And once inside those young brains, what sorts of intellectual and technological tools can best help teachers and administrators stay on point in a rapidly changing world, where the classes of 2018 and 2030, for example, will likely step foot into vastly different realities in terms of higher education and the job market?

“I think we have to prepare our students ​— ​especially the younger ones ​— ​for a life of redesign,” Superintendent Cary Matsuoka (pictured right) told a crowd last week during his State of Our Schools presentation, hosted by the Santa Barbara Education Foundation. “If we try to prepare kids for a career today, that career may be disrupted and gone in 2030. What we need to teach is creativity, how to redesign your life [and] skill set and learn new things.”

In that respect, Matsuoka’s talk touched on Common Core standards, the district’s 7,400 new iPads, and the foundational importance of literacy. He also touched on the nuts and bolts of facilities spending, budgetary overviews, and the recent change in the district’s funding model. The following images are captioned with direct quotes from Matsuoka’s talk.

“[We have] 3,500 students that are learning English so that they can access the curriculum. Imagine you dropping into another country and then being asked to learn history in Spanish or chemistry in Japanese. Wrap your head around what it’s like for [these] students to learn English and also to learn the content we asked them to learn.”
“We are dealing with the [California] Department of General Services and the National Guard [to purchase the five-acre facility]. We’re still pre-escrow. There is no other buyer that the state is entertaining. There is some environmental cleanup that the military needs to do. We’re hoping to be in escrow in about two to three months. As far as programming, career technical education seems to be rising to the top of this conversation. We could also use an outdoor field shared between the high school and junior high. And [SBCC President] Dr. Beebe and I have had some conversations [about shared interests at the property].”
Paul Wellman
“[Building a new] Peabody Stadium is a $39 million project. People ask me, ‘How can you spend so much money on that project when you have so many financial needs?’ I want to make clear that we can only spend facility dollars ​— ​like through Measures I and J bond programs ​— ​on facilities. We can’t take that money and spend it on general operations. And by the way, [for] the Peabody Stadium project, $11 million of external resources [were] brought to that project ​— ​$6 million [in state funding] for seismic upgrades, and the Foundation for Santa Barbara High School fundraised $5 million.”
Paul Wellman
“Here’s a stunning statistic: 14.3 percent of our students are classified as homeless. We have a technical definition [of homelessness, to include] living in a motel or hotel, living in a car, and multiple families living under one roof ​— ​and we’re not talking about a five-bedroom home; we’re talking about a one-bedroom apartment. I’ve also learned that Santa Barbara County has the highest rate of [student] homelessness of the 58 counties in the state. For those of us who wake up and look at the mountains or out across the ocean, we view Santa Barbara as this idyllic place. But for a lot of our students, it’s not. They have to work hard every day to get to school, to survive economically. And I want you to realize that that’s who comes to our classrooms ​— ​students who are learning English, students with housing challenges ​— ​and now you overlay the immigration challenges many of our families face.”
“Last year when I landed here, we had to resolve a budget shortfall of $2.5 million. We did that with some hard work, without reducing any program [or] staffing. We just tightened our belts and got through that. We have now shifted to what’s called a local-community-funded school district [one supported primarily through property taxes, also known as Basic Aid]. Bottom line is that we will get more per student as a community-funded district. We’re not going to be rolling in dough, but it will be a financial advantage. All of our partner districts that send us their 7th graders ​— ​Goleta, Hope, Montecito, Cold Spring ​— ​are all community-funded districts.”


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