JOSHUA TREE — School principals outlined their plans to improve students’ graduation rates and English and math abilities in the coming year during the Morongo Unified School District Board of Education meeting Tuesday night.
Yucca Valley High School Principal Justin Monical discussed tackling chronic absenteeism. This year the school will offer incentives for attendance and is implementing a social-emotional learning curriculum for ninth graders.
Goals for the school also include improving the graduation rates of English learners to 90 percent or higher and maintaining a school-wide suspension rate of 7 percent or lower by June 2020.
Principal Mike Ruggiero of Twentynine Palms High School spoke about increasing parent involvement in the new year.
The school will be implementing Weekly Wildcat News and seasonal meetings for athletes’ parents to get families more involved.
The school is also working to provide all teachers who cover core subjects with standards-based literary resources so they can fully implement the Common Core State Standards.
Principal Jennifer Sands from Black Rock High School spoke about her work to increase attendance with awards, spirit days, homeroom theme projects and more.
Principal Celeste Wahlberg at Yucca Valley Elementary School spoke about the success of last year’s goals in improving students’ English and math proficiency and lowering behavioral problems.
This year YVES hopes to get more parents involved, reduce all behavioral incidents by 10 percent, investigate opportunities for an outdoor learning space for transitional kindergarten and improve reading comprehension for kindergartners.
These plans were all approved by the board.
Also at the meeting, Superintendent Tom Baumgarten spoke about some of the staff’s goals for this school year and their achievements from last year.
Baumgarten said staff calculated the average class size of the district and compared it to 22 other neighboring districts. MUSD had the third lowest class size.
He also said the district now has nearly a one-to-one ratio of computer devices per student.
Goals for this year include making schools safer using the Raptor ID system launched last year.
Kaylee Powell, a Yucca Valley High School student, spoke during public comments about a new safety feature. Students at YVHS were told on Tuesday that they would be required to wear their ID cards around their necks at all times during school.
“This is a violation of student privacy,” she said. “A solution to that would be for students to always have their ID card on their person.”
Powell noted that her ID card includes a four-digit number that is her password for taking tests online and using other school sites.
Her history teacher, YVHS Social Science Department Chairman Jason Bolt, urged the board to consider Powell’s concerns, stating that he’s happy that work is being done to improve student safety but that the students’ concerns are valid and may warrant another discussion.