By Mark A. Diaz
Summer vacation finally ended to the joy of parents and the chagrin of children everywhere. As teachers and students settle into their new routines, Superintendent Dr. Raynee Daley looks forward to another exciting year in the Lucia Mar School District.
“What I’m really thankful for is that we have an incredible staff,” said Daley, “a staff of teachers, staff of classified workers, and administrators that are really committed to helping our kids fulfill their dreams and to be ready for their future. I find that immensely exciting.”
In an end-of-the-school-year letter to the community, Daley stated that the students showed a growing proficiency in reading and mathematics, something she attributes to the school systems actions to address the “achievement gap” experienced by high school students. The National Education Association (NEA) in a discussion guide for identifying factors that attribute to the achievement gap stated that “gaps may exist between groups of students of different backgrounds (e.g., ethnic, racial, gender, disability, and income) on tests, on access to courses and special educational opportunities, and on other indicators such as high school and college completion and employment later in life.”
Daley said that there are steps schools take to manage issues when students exhibit signs of falling behind rather than attempting to rectify the situation years later. She noted that New Tech High School in Nipomo has demonstrated some strong positive differences in the last few years compared to all the other schools in the state.
“[It’s] giving kids the opportunity to use their 21st-century skills of research and communication and problem-solving on real-world problems,” said Daley. “And, learning in a different manner has helped those kids to become very proficient in English lit and arts.”
Lucia Mar utilizes the STEAM program (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) an offshoot of STEM adding the “A” for arts to educate and engage its students. STEM was coined by Dr. Judith Ramaley when she worked for the National Science Foundation in the early 2000s. The concept gained national recognition with former President Obama’s Educate to Innovate initiative. Though there are two schools of thought on adding and removing arts as part of the curriculum, Daley believes the addition creates a well-rounded educational platform.
“Historically, educators have tried to separate the arts from math and science,” said Daley. “Really what we’re starting to see are kids that are very highly proficient in both, because we’re trying to draw those together and utilize all of the parts of the brain in problem-solving in a variety of ways.”
The school district works off a three-year plan and adjusts its approach according to progress made in the past. However, teaching is not the only focus, they also strive to provide an environment where children can learn without the fear of social threats.
“Everything we do in Lucia Mar is trying to systematically build a program, and so we are continuing our work in the elementary levels with reading and math,” said Daley. “We are trying across our district to have a culture that is safe for all kids, that means physical safety and physiological safety that includes inclusiveness for all kids.”
Stating that kids will be kids and bullying will also arise, Daley said that she has seen an increase in the ability of students to problem solve those issues and the growing capacity in students to be compassionate with their peers and to address the problems before they escalate.
“In our schools, we build culture root[s],” said Daley. “What we’re really doing is not only building that culture for that school, but we’re building that culture of compassion and kindness in our world community.”