Nan Austin

February 12, 2014

On Campus blog: Hats off to Modesto Junior College students, Davis High School changes

Modesto Junior College students have some strong communications going, Davis High changes are marching forward and proposed legislation would standardize child abuse mandated reporting.

On Campus

The latest on local schools and education

I don’t remember student meetings when I was in college. There was a student fee. There was a student center. Meetings, who knew? That is why the meeting announcements by Modesto Junior College Student Senate President Andrew J. Campbell deserve a shout-out.

The clear, uncluttered emails give time, date, place and attach the agenda, as well as associated reports and documents. Questions? He adds his office and cell number. The agenda lists financial decisions with amount and purpose to be approved. Every school board agenda should be so forthcoming.

The Compass, MJC’s student newsletter, also deserves a thumbs-up. Straightforward articles stick to what students most likely want to know, without a lot of wandering into personal interest nooks or creative writing experiments.

Front and center, proposed parking fee increases that most students likely had no idea were being discussed. The piece covers the basics and includes some background. Kudos to student journalist Asia Reed. Also applause-worthy, an error in the article was loudly and clearly explained in the next newsletter.

The Davis High Sparta newsletter gives an update for those watching Modesto’s smallest high school retool itself. The Digital Davis initiative announced at last month’s board meeting has a home in the library. Plugs are being added to charge laptops or tablets students will keep for the year, and organizers are researching ebooks for students to check out.

Spartans 101 is the name for the middle college program at Davis, the Sparta says. Next year, the program will start with sophomores taking two one-semester classes to earn six units of transferable college credit, offered through a partnership with Modesto Junior College. Students will not have to pay for registration or books. Davis faculty members will teach the courses. John Gahan is taking the lead for that program.

Also of note, the number of “F” grades given to freshmen this year was 22 percent lower for fall of 2013 compared with fall of 2012. The Sparta notes an accreditation goal is to lower the school’s ninth-grade failure rate.

A bill proposed in the state Assembly would standardize child abuse reporting requirements and related training for all school employees, replacing the by-district hodgepodge now in place. AB 1432, by Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, would mandate annual training.

While having yet another mandate for the first weeks of school rates a groan, a release by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson says many districts give no instructions for this most basic safety net. Though the 1963 California Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act requires schoolteachers, aides, administrators and counselors to report credible suspicions, it gives no direction on training.

We all assume mandated reporters will speak up, but a release by Gatto notes two recent cases in which school employees knew of abuse but said nothing until after children were injured.

“Our current system fails if it prolongs a child’s pain,” he said. “AB 1432 is a simple, straightforward means of making sure school personnel know the techniques and their responsibilities for protecting our children from predators.”

That beats out a groan over mandates any day.

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