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Encouraging accountability at Rancho Cotate High School

Friday, March 5th, 2010 | Posted by

“Let’s do this right,” expressed reader “waynemeister” who wrote a comment to the Ranch “myths” story. “We have opinions, opinions, opinions here.” He goes on to ask for a reporter to interview a small sampling of students from the Ranch about the conditions there. Once you collect their feedback, he wrote, “Only then can we say with any certainty if Rancho sucks or not.”

Waynemeister’s description may appear unrefined, but I quite agree. While I am overjoyed so many people are willing to discuss the issue about the condition (past and present) of the Ranch and other schools in the district, there needs to be factual accountability if the district chooses to diminish or eliminate problems as well as expand positive aspects and programs. Still, don’t leave it up to a small polling of a few students. Why not do what other school districts have done and anonymously survey the parents and teachers (along with students — the impacted audience) about the condition of their schools.

The Hillsborough School District down in the Peninsula has been doing this for years.** Yes, Hillsborough has a lot more money to play with, but the school district isn’t afraid to poll the families every few years asking parents to rate/comment on everything from the condition of the classrooms and if expectations are being met, to ranking the teachers and so much more. I think our district could use some of that honesty, don’t you?

One of the questions Hillsborough asks is how the parents rank the importance of various programs offered in the schools and what programs they would like to see added/subtracted. Related to that issue, here in Rohnert Park during the last wave of elementary school closures, parents repeatedly asked the school board to survey the families about the schools. Parents wanted the school board to understand what schools like Gold Ridge had to offer its students and community. After all, regardless of the district placing so much emphasis on testing (creating an atmosphere of teaching to the test), suddenly the high test scores at Gold Ridge were tossed aside and eliminated from the closure equation. Yup, that really made a lot of sense to everyone.

Moreover, when numerous Gold Ridge parents threatened to take their children away from Rohnert Park if the board proceeded with the closure of their school, several parents requested again and again for the district to survey families about why they were leaving and what kinds of programs they wanted in order to keep their children in local schools. (And what benefits were other districts offering to steal our students away?)

Parents’ request fell on deaf ears and no such questionnaire/survey was conducted. Now, the board is like a deer caught in the headlights wondering why everyone wants to leave as reflected by the tall stack of inter-district transfer forms I’m told is sitting on a desk at the district office.

I hope the school district and board have been reading your comments. Will they take to heart your thoughts, concerns and praise? Will they embrace this opportunity to make positive changes within our community?…I‘d be happy to chat (especially following Trustee Karyn Pulley’s upcoming meeting with Rohnert Park’s mayor to discuss the schools…more on that later.)

I thank you for your participation in this discussion via writing comments or simply reading other’s stories. I’m also excited to hear from a friend’s daughter who attends the Ranch; she told me, a few senior English classes have been reading about this issue, discussing/analyzing the stories in class and using this discourse as an opportunity to create an educational experience by writing responses. (“E”…thanks for that scoop!) So, English class seniors…how would you like to see your school improved?

Reinforcing what I wrote the other day in “myths: part 2,” I invite, nay, I entreat our citizens to use this forum as an opportunity to offer solutions to the board to make our district better for our children. Have you heard of programs that should be implemented (right now, the less cost the better)? Or perhaps you have a zero or low-cost solution or two that will help raise the standards of our schools and attract residents and businesses to the area.

Let’s all put our thinking caps on and help our city thrive.

**Check out the “Needs Assessment Survey” information at the Hillsborough School District’s website.

  • raghda zacharia

    Hi Karyn,
    My kids also went to the Ranch and now almost done with college. This happened early 2000.
    We are now in 2010!!
    Do you remember when the Ranch shut sown a popular IB program though it was a major attraction for kids to come to RP.
    I really do care about our city and the school, for you to allow one trustee to tell a full crowed if you do not like RP, move!
    If I was the president of the Board, an apology is in place

  • RP Student

    I was a participant in the CRPUSD from K-10th and consider myself a rather intelligent person. However, especially at Rancho Cotate, I was so easily let through the cracks, that I slipped from a straight-A honors student to less than a 2.0. Although I accept full responsibility for this change in GPA, I can’t help but feel that this could have, in part, been prevented by the school. For example, I had 137 unexcused absences, not a single phone call was made to inform my parents of this. I also dealt with issues of social drama, in which TEACHERS participated, and felt that most of the teachers I had were so ineffective I found myself teaching the majority of the class, especially in areas of math and social sciences.
    If CRPUSD really want to stop the inter-district transfers, they’ll start evaluating the teachers who are under the impression that they can “slack” on their responsibilities because they are fixtures at the schools, or worse, teachers who feel it appropriate to spend ENTIRE periods bullshitting with the students instead of actually teaching. Rancho Cotate especially could benefit from this and furthermore, counselors who don’t come off as either pedantic or pugnacious would be a plus. It is quite obvious that most teachers/counselors at that high school dislike their job.

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Nick Walden is our Rohnert Park + Cotati correspondent.
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