Monday, 15 July 2024

Salato: Healthy schools, healthy communities

Konocti Unified School District Superintendent Becky Salato. Courtesy photo.

Most folks say they want to live in a functioning society, but they sometimes forget this means we must depend on each other. We each have a role to play.

Along with parents and families, schools’ have a responsibility to teach children the skills they need to become self-supporting adults. As life gets more complex, so does the challenge of educating our youth.

When people cannot read, they struggle to fill out job applications. When they cannot do basic arithmetic, they struggle to manage their personal finances. When they cannot think critically, they struggle to make good decisions.

At Konocti Unified, we offer an educational experience that builds the academic, social, and emotional capabilities to help our students navigate the world around them.

From the time students enter kindergarten, we provide pathways so students will have options open to them after high school.

The requirements to graduate from Lower Lake High School are structured to ensure that students are exposed to a wide variety of subjects and skills.

As we plan classes and programs, we ask ourselves what our students need from us to grow into their potential, and what our community needs from our students to regenerate a healthy, thriving community.

We offer college-prep classes in traditional disciplines like math, language arts, science and social studies.

We also offer Career Technical Education, or CTE, classes to let students explore their interests and to give them a launch pad to pursue certain fields after high school (whether they start with college, technical training, or go directly into the workforce).

Most of the businesses in Lake County are owned and operated by local people who have had to learn new skills on the job. To adjust to an ever-changing work environment, people don’t just need to master a fixed set of skills; they need to know how to learn new skills.

That is what a high school diploma and/or a college degree often represent — the ability to learn and the determination to see something through to the end.
I am especially proud of our growing CTE program. With our community partners, we are providing students with essential skills and the knowledge they need to pursue their interests.

Last year, more than 50 students completed a full CTE pathway, and this year, almost 80 students are on track to do so (an increase of 65%). Last year, we offered seven pathways; now we offer eleven.

The pathways include ornamental horticulture/floral design, animal science, child development, food service/hospitality, welding/materials joining, structural repair and finishing, design/visual/media arts, patient care, emergency response (EMT) and beginning in fall 2024, TK-12 Education.

Some of these programs wouldn’t be possible without our community partners. For example, our new emergency services pathway is team-taught with a high school teacher and a firefighter (Fire Chief William Sapeta or Battalion Chief Marc Hill). When students complete this pathway, they are ready to take the emergency medical technician, or EMT, certification test so they can work alongside paramedics as first responders.

Our new education pathway will address the nationwide teacher shortage right here at home. Students who complete this pathway can apply for positions as paraprofessionals in our district when they graduate from high school.

They can remain in that position, or they can work as paraprofessionals during college while they earn their bachelor’s degree. Then, they can come and work as teachers for us while they complete their teaching credential.

We also have a childhood development pathway that prepares students to work with young children, ideally providing more qualified staff for preschools and transitional kindergarten classrooms.

Our public safety pathway helps fill another shortage in our community: that of law enforcement. Once students complete this pathway, they can apply to any number of agencies to finish their law enforcement education, whether they choose police, highway patrol, sheriff, or corrections.

To fill the pipeline of people qualified to work in agriculture, we offer ornamental horticulture, floral design and animal science. These courses open the door to many fields of study, from crop science to animal husbandry and more.

Our food service/hospitality pathway has introduced the world of culinary endeavors to many students. Whether they choose to become chefs or simply cook amazing meals for friends and family, this program offers many rewards.

Sometimes CTE classes help students get summer jobs making excellent wages. I recently learned that one of our seniors was hired as a welder last summer at $45/hour.

Along those lines, we are working with the Lake County Economic Development Corp. to identify local employers interested in hiring our students for work-based learning opportunities as part of our Structural Repair and Finishing Pathway (automotive).

Our goal is to prepare students for college and eventually, for them to become our community’s next generation of workers. All CTE pathway courses satisfy college entry (“A-G”) requirements for California’s public universities. Some courses even offer dual enrollment so students get high school and college credit at the same time.

When students at Carle recently asked about the value of a high school diploma, they were encouraged to figure it out–in terms of dollars and sense. Their research determined that the difference in earnings with a high school diploma versus without one would amount to about $600,000 over their lifetime. That’s a lot!

We are so fortunate to work hand-in-hand with our community partners. Thanks for supporting our schools. We’ll continue to do our best to prepare our students to be the workers you need in the years to come.

Becky Salato is superintendent of the Konocti Unified School District.

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