Sat. Dec 9th, 2023

By Samuel Strait – Reporter at Large – January 17, 2022

Most people with children are well aware of the fact that our local
school district has not performed well for decades.  Most do not know
that the Del Norte Unified School District consumes just North of $55
million per year.  The first question one might ask is where does all
that money go when the DNUSD is considering loading another $47 million
bond to be placed on the backs of the local taxpayers in November. 
According to the district about $46 million of that figure goes to
salaries and benefits for the district’s employees.  Over the last five
years or so most have received increases in pay of over 15% with some as
much  30%.  Not bad when you consider most make at least double what the
average income that exists in the County.  A further $4.5 million is
spent on student services, programs and service contracts.  Child
development, deferred maintenance, and the cafeteria account for another
$1.5 million, and materials and supplies account for the remaining $3
million.  It is no wonder that the district’s buildings are in such
sorry condition when maintenance seems to be an after thought.

So what does that equate to when examining the performance of the
students in the district.  For at least four decades Del Norte students
have performed by State standards well below the medium of all schools
in California.  When factoring in that California student performance is
near the bottom when compared to other states, well you get the
picture.  The natural implication is that we are spending a lot of money
and not getting much in return. Ever increasing salaries and benefits
for educators and administration, can’t leave them out, with dismal results.

Most in the local educational world are going to point to the well
recognized level of low income families and their general lack of
education.  Del Norte County does not find many college graduates in its
ranks.  Homelessness, and low income families make up a healthy
percentage of the population.  The mean income of that group is less
than $30,000 per year if that.  Health and Human Services assists a
significant portion of that population. That ignores the fact that the
Public Schools have in their possession most of the children ages 5
though 18 for at least seven hours per day, or 35 hours a week to take
positive steps towards preparing for something other than that life
style of poverty.  So, what exactly is happening in the classroom that
does not translate to a successful educational experience?

First and foremost, it would help if about 50% of students were
encouraged to actually attend school on a more regular basis. Roughly
30% chronically absent, a further 20% barely there at all?   One
shudders to think what happened when the District was engaged in on-line
learning.  Perhaps more attention to our national language and its
grammar and spelling would help. Attention to learning how to read? 
Maybe some attention to at least basic mathematics and some science? 
History and government perhaps?  It seems that California assessments of
Del Norte County’s students have revealed a woeful lack of preparedness
in all these areas of learning.  Only 5% of students go  on to college
to graduate, many having to remediate  basic class work in order to
begin courses in their major once at university.  How did that happen? 
Another 5% attempting college or university only to fail.

Lets face it, local public education has for most students in Del Norte
County been nothing short of dismal.  Chronic absenteeism, poor
performance in basic educational skills, and a general failure of our
local educational community to affect any positive change.  Not for just
a few years but for decades.  One final note to deliberate around. 
Public education performed relatively well until the formation of
teacher’s unions in the 60’s. 

Since then there has has been a
remarkably consistent down hill path for student performance coupled
with a steady up hill trend in teacher compensation and benefits without
any consideration for their improvement in teaching skills.  Wonder if
there could possibly be a connection?

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