On Monday night, board members, principals, teachers and parents convened at the annual Newhall School District State of the District, focusing their schools’ changing demographics as well as their improved academic performance.
At the meeting, attendees were provided the opportunity to discuss the district’s comprehensive plan and participate in sessions concerning professional learning communities and a question and answer session with school principals.
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Forums for school site council member training, PTA and Foundation support and assistance, public governance structure and the district budget were also held.
“I think this district is in pretty good shape,” said district superintendent Dr. Marc Winger.
The district, which is composed of ten elementary schools, serves 7,000 students who live in the Newhall, Valencia, Stevenson Ranch and Westridge communities of the Santa Clarita Valley.
“We’ve taken a very conservative approach to having cash on hand. We’ve made very conservative cuts, and we’ve done so with sensitivity.”
Although Winger and board members expressed concern over the recently-passed state budget, they commended the district’s improved academic performance in light of cuts in the tough economy.
Winger cited two indicators as proof the district’s success: parent input and the district’s consistently rising score in the Academic Performance Index.
With a score of 896, the Newhall School District boasts the highest API in the Santa Clarita Valley, with an increase of almost 50 points since 2005.
Some parents and teachers who spoke said the score is likely due to the number of school parents with a higher level of education, as they are able to effectively help their children with schoolwork at home.
Winger noted the closing of the achievement gap, which considers API scores of Caucasians, Hispanics and the socio-economically disadvantaged.
A significant part of the evening was also devoted to the district’s shifting demographics.
“This is the first year that we’ve gone from being a predominantly Anglo school district to a predominantly Hispanic school district,” he said.
In 1988, the district’s student population was 81 percent Caucasian and 14 percent Hispanic. For this school year, it is 39.5 percent Caucasian and 41 percent Hispanic.
The discussion also highlighted enrollment trends, particularly the larger number of older students.
“The homes aren’t turning over, but the kids are aging. We aren’t seeing a turnover of families in the district,” said Winger.
With 829 students in kindergarten and 1003 in the sixth grade, it is clear that fewer students are beginning their education in the Newhall School District.
“We won’t see that (change) until either the economy picks up or Newhall Ranch picks up,” he said.
More information on the district and its future plans can be found at newhallschooldistrict.net.