HUSD schools on a ‘journey’ to become premier choice district

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The West Valley jazz band greets guests at the 2019 State of the District breakfast at the Hemet Unified School board room Thursday, Oct. 10. Tony Ault photo

Hemet Unified School District superintendent Christi Barrett said the school board, teachers, staff and voters have made significant progress in turning the district into a “Premier Choice School District” for its 22,082 student population at the annual “State of District” breakfast, Thursday, Oct. 10.

Barrett told the guests, including HUSD teachers, administrators, county school officials, Hemet city officials and state representatives attending the breakfast in the boardroom, “Today isn’t truly about the Hemet school district but it’s truly about what the impact we can have together to care about the space we choose to live in and the space our children are raised in.”

She said that four years ago when she first took the job of superintendent she asked where the school district stood in the community and if the district was taking “risks” on behalf of the children served. She said the answer was “no.”

“We started on a journey of taking risks where we were willing to fail and to become the premier choice of school districts,” Barrett said.

“To become the premier choice means we offer something special on behalf of our communities, our families and our children. We want to become the thing than brings people into our community, because this is the space where they want to live and raise their family, because they know that they are going to be better. It is an aspiration goal and something we are striving to be,” she said.

Barrett said the district seeks to “embrace, educate and empower” each of its students on their journey through life.

With a video presentation, she showed the expanded programs the district now offers students in all of its schools in an effort to reach those goals.

Some programs include relocating the Parent Resource Center to a downtown area more convenient for all parents in the city; adding full time counselors to all elementary school sites, delivering districtwide core curriculum lessons and group and individual counseling.

The district has seen the graduation rate increase from the 2015-2016 to the 2016-2017 school years, as well as decreased the dropout rate, increased the “at-risk” student graduation rate, increased the Career Technical Pathways from 15 to 27 with completion rate increasing from 108 to 527 and improving security across the district by having more than 2,000 cameras in the schools with a 24 hours seven days a week central surveillance and communication office, giving staff ALICE training and using more K-9 detection dogs and metal detectors.

Since the local district voters passed Measure X, funds in the past year have benefited a number of schools, including Winchester Elementary School’s new classroom and wing library, new administration entry, security upgrades, and increasing parking and drop off area. Little Lake Elementary received the same improvements.

Idyllwild K-8 School gained administration reconfiguration for continuity. The Hemet and West Valley High gymnasiums each received replacement of swamp cooler systems with air conditioning.

Barrett said the district was particularly happy that the CTE Welding Pathway will begin this fall at Alessandro Continuation High School, and the administration is looking to extend it to other high schools. Also at Alessandro High, the CTE programs are being unified with the adult and special education classes.

A highlight of the State of District was a testimony given by Isaiah Garcia Plazola, a senior at Helen Hunt Jackson College Prep High School who told of having his life changed from living on the streets and sometimes being homeless to looking forward to graduation and attending college thanks to the teachers and programs in the district. Plazola was also one of the district’s students of the month.

Toward the end of the address, Barrett called upon each table to provide their ideas on what the drivers in the community were, what is preventing the community to improve and what the solutions might be to move the community and the district ahead with its goal.

Many ideas were shared and noted by the superintendent who then asked the guests and the community to support the district in applying for part of a $400 million Hewlett-Packard education grant to school districts. HUSD was named one of the seven finalists.

She said the foundation has given the district $50,000 to help apply for a portion of the grant. The grant is designed to help educators, schools and communities turn schools into places that empower and equip every student for a lifetime of learning and to expand access to open educational resources.

Information about HUSD, enrollment, opportunities, student activities, education programs and other information is available at the district website www.hemetusd.org.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at tault@reedermedia.com.