One Parent's Hope for a New Year

It is no secret I have been critical of the Beaumont Unified School District's board and administration's failure to involve parents but, in 2013, with the new administration, under Dr. Maureen Latham's leadership, I am hopeful things will be different.  Over the last couple weeks, I have been communicating with the Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, Dr. Christine Goennier about including parents in helping the district determine the technology future for our kids.

I plan to recruit a group of parents to visit other schools to check out their STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) and to research STEAM grants and other funding sources. My goal is to deliver a proposal for a STEAM program to our school board before the end of the school year. The first step  is to educate parents about what is STEAM; what is the district's current plan for STEAM; and what a successful STEAM program looks like.

I started last month working with Dr. Goennier to host a forum to educate parents. She agreed to present the district's plan for STEAM at the forum which I originally planned to host in my home. Brent Bishop, the coordinator for the Highland Springs Academy Charter School scheduled to open next year in Beaumont, also agreed to present the charter school's plan for STEAM. Esri's K-12 Educational Marketing Team also accepted my invitation to demonstrate how GIS fits into a STEAM program.

I received so much interest from parents that I realized we were going to need some place larger than my home to host the forum. Dr. Goennier offered to provide a location. When I suggested the district could host the event as one of their Parent Forums they were planning for next year, she agreed. We decided the Beaumont High School Theater would be the perfect venue and the forum will be scheduled for some time in early March. Dr. Goennier suggested the forum be geared towards parents of elementary students and said she would invite representatives from the middle schools to showcase what they are already doing. She also offered to organize a committee of parents and teachers after the forum to explore STEAM opportunities. The forum is scheduled for March 11 at 6pm.

I am very excited about the administration's willingness to support my efforts and include parents in the planning of our kids educational future in an area I believe is vital to the success of our kids. I'll keep you posted on our progress.

Other Technology and STEAM News:

Mesa View Middle School Tour - A couple weeks ago, my wife and I took our fifth grade daughter to tour the sixth grade STEM program at Mesa View in Calimesa. The principal, Jim Stolze, showed us, along with a couple other Beaumont families around the campus. We were all very impressed. My daughter is excited to go there but she doesn't want to leave all her friends in Beaumont. In the end we will do what's in her best interest but we are hoping we don't have this difficult decision to make in three years when my son is entering 6th grade. Hopefully, by then Beaumont Unified will offer a similar program. 

I am aware that Beaumont's middle schools have some high test scores, last year they had scores higher than Mesa View. The Mesa View program is something the Beaumont schools won't be able to offer for at least another couple years. By then my daughter will be entering high school, I don't have time to wait. I want her to have the best possible opportunity to have a successful career demanding skills in technology and engineering, if this is the area of study she chooses. It is my responsibility as a parent to best prepare her for the challenging world we are leaving her and the technology industry has been unable to find enough skilled candidates for the high paying careers they offer.

Riverside Unified School District Technology - The week before Christmas, I accepted an invitation from Dr. Goennier to join about a dozen educators from Beaumont Unified to attend a presentation and tour a couple campuses in the Riverside Unified School District. RUSD is one of the first districts in the country to move towards every K-12 student using smart devices (laptops, tablets, IPods, and smart phones) to augment their learning. Students who want to use their own devices from home are encouraged to bring them to school and those who don't are provided access to ones they can check out for the entire school year. Teachers use countless apps, many of them free, to better connect students with coursework on a platform they are familiar with. The RUSD presenters addressed most of my concerns and, coming from a technology background, I was very impressed. I was also impressed with RUSD's philosophy that every campus was opened to every student, they are not bound by neighborhoods. This is the kind of school choice I think everyone can benefit from.

Beaumont Unified's future won't be exactly like Mesa View or Riverside Unified because a successful program needs to be customized for the students and community of Beaumont. I think parents can provide valuable ideas on how technology would best benefit our kids and I am encouraged to see our district welcoming parental input. Please attend the parent forum on STEAM on March 11 and volunteer for the planning committee. We need to show the district we appreciate their efforts to reach out to us.