Modesto City Schools feeder districts' high schoolers tell it, sell it

naustin@modbee.comOctober 30, 2013 

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate textNan Austin
    Title: Education reporter
    Coverage areas: K-12 education, Yosemite Community College District
    Bio: Nan Austin has been a copy editor and reporter at The Modesto Bee for 24 years. She has an economics degree from CSU Stanislaus and previously worked at the Merced Sun-Star and Turlock Journal.
    Recent stories written by Nan
    On Twitter: @nanaustin
    E-mail: naustin@modbee.com

— Looking to strengthen ties with districts that feed into its high schools, Modesto City Schools gathered school board members together and let their kids show and tell. Amid the din of robots whirring, a choir singing and teens explaining, district administrators and trustees said one message came through loud and clear: We can do great things, together.

“‘Collaborative’ seems to be the word this year,” said Claudia Vicino of the Empire Union administrative team at the Tuesday evening event. Looking around the room full of teens from special classes like firefighting, medical, visual arts and forensic science, she said, “Isn’t this cool? It really showcases (Modesto’s) programs to its feeder schools.”

Empire trustee Loretta Stein said the Glick Middle School band and drama groups connected with follow musicians and thespians at nearby Johansen High this year. “They go back and forth and perform. It’s great,” she said.

“I think this is fantastic,” said Sylvan Union trustee Terriann Zeek. “It’s a first step in getting all the feeder districts together with Modesto City. All of our kids end up in Modesto high schools,” she said, adding that better connections between districts just makes sense. “This will make our kids more successful in the long run.”

That was the plan, said Modesto City Superintendent Pam Able. “It lets us show what we have to offer their students. They can be our ambassadors,” Able said. Each high school showcased one or more of its signature programs that incoming teens can select regardless of which boundary area they live in.

“The next step is to go out to junior highs and show the programs,” said Mike Coats, Modesto City director of educational services for high schools.

Students giving presentations said talking to the officials came easy. “It’s been good. We really know the program, so we can talk about it and answer questions,” senior Brianna McTear said before launching into a presentation on Protecting Health and Slamming Tobacco activities at Elliott Alternative Education Center.

Beyer robotics student Myen Mason patiently showed curious elders how to control can-size Linkbots scurrying around the floor. That popular career pathway has developed a kind of “road show,” a presentation of skills key in training for future jobs, said Mike Henderson, Modesto director of vocational programs. “They’re really articulate, and developing those what we call soft skills is so important. We hear more and more, ‘We hire for attitude, train for skills,’” he said.

Stanislaus Union Superintendent Britta Skavdahl said the event offered an opportunity to see how Prescott Junior High programs can match up, for example, in music or robotics. “This really brings their programs to life,”

Even for folks who see excited, forward-leaning teens on a daily basis, the evening offered fresh insight. “It’s exciting to see the energy,” said Downey Principal Richard Baum. “There is a future.”

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339. Follow her on Twitter @NanAustin.

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