I want to continue my superintendent comments tonight with two parts. First I want to set the record straight about public comments made at our last school board meeting on September 24th. And the second part, I want to share some of my thoughts about preparing our students for a global world and why our multilingual pathway planning is so important.
At our last board meeting, there were continued complaints about the windows at Santa Barbara High School. I want to reiterate that the safety of our students is our primary concern, which is why we have emergency plans in place at every school and we are going to be testing our new CrisisGo environment during the Great Shakeout next week, on Thursday, October 17, 2019. With regard to this complaint, these windows are not designed as escape routes. They are designed to provide ventilation to classrooms. There are no fire escape ladders on our buildings as that would be an unsafe path of travel. The proper escape routes are through the classroom doors, hallways, and multiple exits at Santa Barbara High School.
Second, a community member has been showing a book and reading material that she asserts is being used in our schools around sexual health and education. That assertion is false, we are not using that curriculum that this person has been holding up at our past board meetings. All instructional materials are approved and vetted through a process, and again, we want the community to know that what is being portrayed during public comments is false.
Third, over the last few months, we have heard concerns expressed about the “Talking in Class” program that is part of our contract with Just Communities. We want to assure the public and our parents that, starting last Spring, a certificated staff member has been present throughout the entire “Talking in Class” experience for our students. Their role is to monitor and ensure that the experience of our students is safe and appropriate.
With regard to the request to review the curriculum used by Just Communities, I have asked executive director, Jarrod Schwartz, to address that request and he will offer public comment with his plans about how to make that curriculum reviewable in the near future.
So, let me move on to the topic of our Comprehensive Plan for Multilingual Pathways. Later on tonight, you are going to hear an update to the board and the community about this planning process. As an introduction to that topic, I offer these reasons why preparing students for a multilingual, multicultural world makes sense. First, our students will be better prepared for their future if they are literate in two or more languages. The global economy has become an interconnected world of supply chains, multinational corporations, and project management across time zones and languages. The top four languages by the number of native speakers in the world are: Chinese (1.3 billion), Spanish (460 million), English (379 million), and fourth is Hindi (341 million). Your life and career will be enhanced if you are multilingual. Second, the research is conclusive that learning two or more languages enhances brain development and slows down the onset of Dementia and Alzheimer’s, which is my personal interest. The research has been out there for decades that being bilingual or even trilingual enhances your cognitive abilities. Third, language and culture are intertwined and multilingual students develop greater cultural proficiency. The world is not a monolithic language and culture and our students need to be ready to engage with people from many different life experiences.
The California Department of Education that governs education has established a Global California 2030 initiative that has these goals: first, that 50% of K-12 students participate in programs that lead to proficiency in two or more languages, that is 50% of our graduates by 2030; second, to triple the number of high school graduates that earn the Seal of Biliteracy where a graduate is proficient in English and another language, and we have many of our graduates in June that have that Seal of Biliteracy; and third, to increase the number of dual language immersion programs in our state, which we are working on. Next year, we will have a 7th grade dual language immersion program at Santa Barbara Junior High and you will also be hearing about our effort to establish an elementary dual language immersion program inside of our district.
Behind me, (referring to the framed Mission Statement that hangs behind the dias) we finally got the new Mission Statement up; “We prepare students for a world that is yet to be created,” and part of that world is a multicultural, multilingual global environment. We are starting to adopt a Global Santa Barbara initiative that makes multilingualism and cultural proficiency a priority for our district. If any place should be doing it, it should be Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara is the ideal setting to create a multilingual educational model and I hope our community is ready to get behind a plan to move in that direction. Here is the question I have for us as a district and as a community – “What type of graduate profile do we want for our high school seniors – a monolingual English speaker or a multilingual, culturally proficient citizen? I advocate for the latter, and I look forward to tonight’s report to the board and to the community about our Comprehensive Plan for Multilingual Pathways.