Community engagement and collaboration that strategically links the San Bernardino City Unified School District with key partners in the region is pivotal for student success from cradle to career. This was the key message SBCUSD Superintendent Dr. Dale Marsden delivered during the 5th annual Community Gathering for Excellence.
The event, designed to provide an update on the district and highlight efforts taken to continue to make hope happen, took place Wednesday morning at the National Orange Show to an attendance of nearly 1,000 people. Keynote speaker Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup, Inc. provided insight to further promote hope, and underlined the importance of identifying builders among students.
The school district is merely one segment of the community, but the success of its students is critical to the overall success of the city, and by extension, the region.
“We have enrolled in the actual physical solution to what this city needs to be great again,” Dr. Marsden explained to the audience of school board members, city and county officials, educators, and community members. “This collective impact approach aligned with acts of excellence will serve to accelerate change; it takes a host of people to make hope happen for residents.”
Bing Wong Elementary School students reacted to recent news outlets that designated San Bernardino the “most dangerous city” via a YouTube video that demonstrated just how dangerous they are. Several students took turns to declare, “Watch out, world, I’m dangerous because I want to be an engineer.” Or a lawyer, or a teacher.
“The event was so inspiring and helped to recommit us to excellence in education and how our students learn,” said Gloria Harrison, San Bernardino Community College District Trustee.
District successes include Richardson PREP HI Middle School recognized as 1 of 329 National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education, the soar of graduation rates in one year from 79.9% in 2014 to 85.5% in 2015 which surpasses county and state rates, Middle College High School’s 100% graduation rate, and Hillside, Kimbark, Norton, Roosevelt and Thompson Elementary Schools recognized by the California Department of Education as Gold Ribbon Schools.
“The talent, creativity, intelligence, and leadership skills displayed by SBCUSD students gives me hope for our future,” said Palm Avenue Elementary School Principal Kathy Wade.
SBCUSD collaborated with Gallup, a research-based global company that delivers analytics and advice to help leaders and organizations solve their most pressing problems, to gather key data from San Bernardino residents to identify their priorities for the city.
“The city needs infrastructure, safe routes to school, and green spaces; residents want a city they can be proud of,” Dr. Marsden asserted. “As we work to lift this city, it will lift the entire region and state, therefore it’s critical that we stay our commitment to see this city through.”
Polls indicate a shift in human development, keynote speaker Clifton informed the audience. What is it that makes life meaningful has morphed through the generations from coveting freedom 80 years ago, to peace and having a family in the 60’s. Today it is to occupy a meaningful job, especially among Millennials.
“This insight will change how we educate, and the systems are not switching fast enough,” he said. “The more we lead in the wrong direction, the worse we are making it.”
Why had the economy taken such a downturn? “We stopped building,” Clifton declared. “Educators are good at spotting and developing good learners, coaches with great athletes, but a builder doesn’t have specific traits which makes it challenging because rare determination can’t be seen.”
Clifton compared similar cities in Tennessee, Memphis and Nashville, to illustrate just how essential builders are to an economy. Nashville thrives because its leaders and educators discovered how to build, whereas Memphis stopped building and suffers economic depression.
Clifton estimates around 1,000 students in the school system possess the ability to change this city, but will not be identified because there is no system in place to test for builders.
“Our assessments are so broken down, we focus on what’s wrong and what’s lacking and humans just don’t develop like that,” Clifton explained. “When one is continuously assigned a task that they have no capacity to accomplish, it’s torture and breeds hopelessness.”
Rather, Clifton suggested that strengths exhibited by students continue to be identified, praised and nurtured. That is what fosters hope.
“Teachers have a better chance at fixing a city than the government, whose job isn’t to identify builders but to protect and serve,” he concluded. “If you and I don’t fix America, I’m pretty sure no one else will.”
Dr. Marsden launched the Gathering for Excellence in 2012 as a way to engage parents, employees, and community members in meaningful dialogue about local educational reforms. Among the ways education and instruction has evolved in SBCUSD since then has been a focus on Linked Learning, which provides opportunities for students to explore careers from manufacturing to medical that are integrated with their academic lessons.
“The SBCUSD Gathering of Excellence has focused in on the fact that education is the path to success for our youth,” said San Bernardino Mayor R. Carey Davis. “The partnerships forged in developing this program have benefitted our students by creating a network of support for our students.”
Key partners include the University of California, Riverside; California State University, San Bernardino;San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools; San Bernardino Valley College; San Bernardino County; and the City of San Bernardino.