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Brewing Within Episode 3: ‘What sound hope looks like to one California administrator’ post COVID-19

Central Valley students of color are safe in the hands of this administrator

In "Brewing Within" episode 3, ONME News, Julia Dudley Najieb has a candid, one-on-one interview with California, Washington Union High School administrator, Dennis Randle, M.Ed., who is the learning director, about the actual COVID-19 experience from the school's perspective.  He addresses the unforeseen issues students, teachers and staff were up against before, during and after the pandemic.

Washington Union High School is a high school in the rural community of Easton in Fresno County, California. Founded in 1892, Washington Union is one of the oldest high schools in Fresno County. The school district encompasses roughly 90 square miles in the heart of the central San Joaquin Valley.

Central California impoverished city, Easton, has a poverty rate that fluctuates from 15.3% or higher, according to Healthy Fresno County. The diverse population also has a large rural population who work heavily in the agricultural industry. Randle confirmed that there are still rough roads ahead, as some students had challenges not being able to complete their credits in a year due to the lack of internet resources.

Students of color in the Central Valley continue to suffer disproportionately to other students; the pandemic exacerbated problems that already existed among these student groups, who resemble others across the state.

The California Department of Education (CDE) released student performance data at the beginning of the year that provide baseline indicators of how the COVID-19 pandemic had impacted schools and students.The 2020–21 data affirm both the challenges created by the pandemic.

“Our road ahead is clear—we must continue to focus our energy and resources in supporting our students, families, and educators so they not only recover from the impacts of COVID-19 but thrive in days ahead,” said State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond. “This must remain our top priority. I am grateful to the Legislature and Governor Newsom for last year’s historic education package (PDF) that provides a record-high level of funding to help transform our system to one dedicated to addressing all the impacts of COVID-19 on our students—academic, behavioral, social-emotional and physical.”

Governor Gavin Newsom made a historic investments in student learning, health, and well-being this past summer: The $123.9 billion education package signed by Governor Newsom in July provides the highest level of K–12 funding in history, including the expansion of after-school and summer programs to accelerate learning and the creation of full-service community schools to address student mental health and wellness needs.

To help schools accelerate learning during the 2020–21 year, Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill 86 on March 5, 2021, which provided $4.6 billion (of $6.6 billion in total funding) to expanding student supports. Schools used those early funds to expand educational opportunities for the summer and the following school year.

According to summer data released by the State of California Safe Schools for All Hub, 89 percent of school districts reporting offered new learning opportunities over the summer, including learning acceleration (e.g., high-dose tutoring), enrichment, and mental health services.

“The statewide performance data from last year confirm what we heard from school districts and county offices throughout the year," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Thurmond. "Namely, the challenges that students and educators faced during the pandemic were multi-dimensional and disruptive to learning and mental health. Our goal now is to move all students forward. We are thankful for the historic investments in education, and I am putting forward a bold agenda to address long-standing inequities that have caused disproportionate learning gaps for students of color and other student groups in California with a plan to transform California schools.”


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