County offices of education could be called the school safety net.
They oversee district finances, a background job unless they find major problems like at Denair Unified this year. They provide alternatives for students expelled from neighborhood schools and teach kids in juvenile halls. The Stanislaus County Office of Education also provides a hub for high speed Internet; accounting, legal and hiring expertise for tiny districts; innovative charters, and a broad range of special education and preschool services.
SCOE, as it likes to be called, also takes on an issue each year to promote countywide. Every Day Counts was a two-year attendance initiative. Then came Fit for the Future, an anti-obesity campaign that revved up exercise campaigns. Choose Civility is winding up now, an anti-bullying, pro-politeness push to improve the atmosphere on campus.
Next, SCOE will take up successful outcomes with Destination Graduation, a joint initiative with the United Way, Stanislaus County Board of Education members were told Tuesday. The push will start with junior highs, involving all the county districts that do not include high schools. Research shows kids start the down and out spiral in seventh grade, SCOE Assistant Superintendent Sue Rich said.
Overall, 78.4 percent of Stanislaus County's entering freshmen from 2008 marched straight through to diplomas in 2012. That's only slightly under the state average of 78.5 percent, but still a story of failure for 1,193 teens now looking for work without even that most basic qualification. Even the military won't take them.
Also part of the picture are the fifth-year seniors trying to make up for past misses: Just under 6 percent of those in the Stanislaus group, compared to 7.5 percent statewide.
The county office has a plan to help young adults who hit the job market without diplomas and learned employers weren't all that excited to see them.
A charter school for 18- to 22-year-olds will be proposed next month, said Scott Kuykendall, head of alternative education for SCOE. The school will offer independent study leading to a diploma (instead of a GED), linked with work training programs, he said.
The idea means there will be more options for those 1,193 drop-outs from the Stanislaus Class of 2012.