Palm Tech, A New STEM School

We've all watched over the last few years many of our elementary schools win awards. We are all very proud of the principals, teachers and students of these schools. However, one school, Palm Elementary, has been designated as a Program Improvement (PI) school. If you don't know what PI means, here is a brief explanation that might help:

Any school or school district that receives federal Title 1 funds (those provided to schools and districts to better serve a significant population of low-income students) and that does not meet their Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) goals for two years in a row is considered in Program Improvement.

In year five, a school must make significant changes such as replacing all or most of the staff including the principal; reopen the school as a charter school or under the management of an outside organization; or make other significant changes.

Excerpt from: http://www.edresults.org/pi.html#pi 

As of the 2010 - 2011 school year, Palm was in the second year of PI. If the scores for 2012 do not meet their goal, Palm will only be a couple of years away from significant changes required by the Federal Government "such as replacing all or most of the staff." I think it is time we do something; our kids shouldn't have to wait another two years.

I have proposed in the past converting Palm into a technology academy. President Obama's educational department's "Race to the Top" program encourages districts to find unconventional solutions for struggling schools. The President has also become a strong advocate for STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) schools as a viable solution and is offering bonuses for teachers specializing in STEM. 

I believe converting Palm Elementary to a STEM school will benefit families of Palm students and all Beaumont families. This is why I have decided it will be the center plank of my platform in my campaign for BUSD's school board. This will not be a charter school; it will be a public school and will be administered and staffed by Beaumont's teachers and employees. I am counting on the spotlight that comes along with a school board election to increase our community's awareness about STEM and motivate the administration, and our school board, with or without me, to do something to help Palm families and build something of which we can all be proud. Whether I am elected or not, this will be my focus in the coming years.

My plan has two goals, improving educational opportunities for Palm students and providing school choice for all the families in Beaumont. The superintendent and current school board may say we don't have the money for a STEM Academy at Palm. This project meets the officially stated goals of Measure Z and would be more beneficial to more families in Beaumont than the Measure Z funded stadium. The board and administration justified spending $12 million on their new offices; I believe helping Palm families and bringing school choice to the rest of Beaumont has more value to more families in Beaumont than the stadium or the district offices. How many outstanding athletes from Palm Elementary will never play in the new stadium? How many Palm students will never walk through graduation in the new stadium? 

My ideas is for Palm to become a 3-5 or 3-8 school with Palm families being guaranteed attendance. The remaining spaces will be filled by students from other Beaumont schools. Providing transportation to Palm's K-2 students to the other award winning schools in the district should insure an equal opportunity for all our kids. Also, I hope to make parent involvement a requirement for students to gain admittance to Palm Tech. I think it is important to continue to support the Dual Immersion program so taking that into consideration, what we end up with will likely be different than my original vision.

I am establishing a focus group made up of parents, teachers, administrators and people in the technology industry, to begin a public discussion. I don't claim to be an expert on STEM and want to bring in as many voices as possible. I will use technology to bring this discussion to the public and provide opportunity for public comment. The focus group will meet in live Google hangouts (online meetings) and then be posted on YouTube for download (more on this later). I hope to teach BUSD's administration the power modern technology can provide to unite and involve our community. 

I have been following STEM programs and sharing articles on my Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/OurFocusOurKids.com. I will continue to share STEM articles because I want to open minds and help the community understand what is possible. Go to my page and ask for a friend invite to follow the STEM news. 

Parents, teachers, and administrators in Beaumont need to come together to develop and implement local solutions. I believe together we can make an already award winning school district something really special.

Here is the California State Department of Education's link about Program Improvement: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/ti/programimprov.asp