Students teach SSUSD board about AVID

Linda Saholt

News Review Correspondent

Students teach SSUSD  board about AVIDLivening up the Sierra Sands Unified School District’s Board of Education meeting on March 20 were several dozen students, who came to show board members what they’ve learned in the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program.

AVID is a college readiness system designed to increase school-wide learning and performance. Think of it as learning high-performance study habits, learning critical thinking and organizing material for maximum effectiveness. The system is being implemented in the western states and Canada. (For more information about AVID, see www.avid.org.)

At Burroughs High School, AVID has been offered as an elective class for more than five years. Today the concepts and techniques that work so well for the college-prep students are being taught to the general student population to benefit all students.

BHS Principal David Ostash brought in a team of the system’s best advocates — some of the students themselves. Students took turns showing board members the notebooks and reports they had created and explaining how these helped them learn more efficiently and thoroughly. Both students and board members seemed to be enjoying themselves.

“So far, 27 of our teachers and staff members have received training through AVID,” said Ostash. “That breaks down to four science teachers, three administrators, seven English teachers, one P.E. teacher, one Spanish teacher, one German teacher, three math teachers, two Social Studies teachers, one counselor, one Special Ed teacher and our teacher/librarian.”

Several teachers took turns at the podium, explaining their own successes with the system. BHS student Katia Mondragon represented the student viewpoint. “I’ve been in the AVID program five years,” she said. “I have learned skills ranging from taking Cornell notes and summarizing to developing complex Socratic seminars and essays — skills that can be applied to any class.”

She went on to say that, having been in both traditional classes and “AVID-ized” classes, she much preferred the AVID-ized ones.

“There’s no question that the support of AVID and the professional development associated with that has really increased the access and success of our college preparatory program,” said Ostash. The program is also being instituted at Murray Middle and James Monroe Middle School, which will make AVID at BHS even more successful.”

The only problem is that AVID funding was eliminated in the final state budget in 2013. “In order to continue the program, the Kern County Superintendent of Schools created a consortium so that school districts could come together and share the cost of a registered AVID coordinator,” said Shirley Kennedy, assistant superintendant of curriculum/instruction.

A memorandum of understanding has been created between SSUSD and the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, with each paying part of the cost. Several school districts will be represented in the MOU, including Kern High School. The board approved the MOU.

In other business, the board heard reports from the Citizens Oversight Committee, which has now fulfilled its duties in compliance with the terms of Proposition 39. In a report given by Committee Member Sandy Roberts,

“The district has issued all the Measure A bonds that the assessed value of the community will allow. The funds, $25,630,599.40 have been spent [on modernization projects for district schools]. The committee has completed its duties.”

The board voted to disband the committee.

“The authority still exists to issue more bonds, but the assessed valuation of the community may not allow that for some time,” said Roberts.

“We only got about half of the bond money we were planning on, “said Board Member Tom Pearl. “I understand additional taxes were assessed to cover this — every homeowner was to pay about $50 in addition per year to offset the bonds. Has the average homeowner seen an increase or decrease to cover this?

“Yes, it has increased and the tax is still there,” said SSUSD Superintendent Joanna Rummer.

Story First Published: 2014-03-26