Overall, it was a happy occasion at the Galt Joint Union High School District (GJUHSD) meeting Thursday, Nov. 7 as trustees received good news throughout the meeting, getting a thumbs up from the Measure E Oversight Committee and hearing progress reports about the Academic Achievement Metrics for the 2018-19 school year and improvements for professional development.

Measure E Oversight report

Brian Villanueva, Measure E Oversight Committee chair, delivered the committee’s annual progress report.

Passed in 2016 by the voters within the high school district, the $36 million bond authorized funding for technology, modernization and repair of existing facilities and the construction of new facilities.

The committee is taxed with overseeing every penny of the $36 million and making sure all of it is spent on the approved bond projects.

Villanueva thanked Chief Business Official Corey Reihl for making the committee’s job easy, as well as the trustees for approving appropriate spending.

“Every meeting, Corey would have a list of every check written from the bond proceeds, with the ones we hadn’t seen the last time highlighted,” Villanueva said. “This made our job easy. Also, thank you board for spending the money where you were supposed to.”

Just two years in and most of the bond projects have already been completed.

A technology overhaul had been the first project to be completed and not too far behind was modernization of several buildings on the aging Galt High campus.

Arguably, the crown jewels to come from the funding are the brand new stadiums at the two high schools. However, their glory may be outshone once the last project is completed next spring – a two-story science/biomedical building on the Galt High campus, which broke ground in June 2019.

According to the committee report, most projects came in on budget or just under. However, complications, thanks to a termite infestation, on the modernization of Galt High’s woodshop/ceramics building proved a costly affair, to the tune of approximately $400,000 over budget.

Academic Achievement Metrics

Sean Duncan, director of Educational Services, told trustees of academic progress being made in areas across the district, including AP classes and exams.

Overall, more district students are taking the advanced placement classes, taking the AP tests and passing those tests.

The district improvement even gained attention from Mikael Taylor, an assistant director on the state College Board.

After reviewing AP data, Taylor reached out to Duncan.

“I noticed that your district has had impressive growth in the past few years with your program, giving more students opportunity to gain college credit,” Taylor said in correspondence with Duncan. “I am sure you are already monitoring this but wanted to send along my own congratulations on the work happening for your students and community!”

Overall, AP exams being taken increased by 21 percent between 2018 and 2019 and increased 28 percent since 2016. The number of students passing the AP exams has also increased, showing a 23 percent increase between 2018 and 2019 and an astounding 43 percent increase since 2016.

Trustee Melissa Neuburger is proud of the progress that has been made in this area, but also wanted the community to understand just how far reaching these positive effects are.

“When we talk about how many of our students who pass their AP exams, the students who score with a 3 or higher, we’re looking at $90,000 worth of tuition saved by the parents from the Galt high school district, and that’s a huge benefit to our community,” Neuburger said. “We don’t think of the benefits in those terms often, but it’s a reality.”

Students who pass an AP exam receive college credit for that subject, eliminating the necessity to take that course in college.

Neuburger also pointed to the higher graduation rates attained by the district, as well as the lower dropout rate as of the last reporting period for the 2017-18 school year.

“Galt high school district, out of all the other districts in Sacramento County, had the highest graduation rate and the lowest dropout rate then all the other districts,” Neuburger said. “This is something to be very, very proud of.”

Galt high school district’s dropout rate is a low 1.7 percent with a high 95.9 percent graduation rate, besting the county and statewide graduation rates of 88 percent and 87.3 percent, respectively.

Professional development

After seeing a drop in scores on the 2018 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) for English learners and students with disabilities in the Language Arts subject and receiving feedback from the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE) and other professionals, Duncan led district staff through a new professional development program called “Continuous Improvement and Cycles of Learning”.

Improvements have been seen after implementing a better testing environment, facilitating better focus during teacher collaboration and giving more time for that collaboration through calendar changes.

District staff has made steps to ensure that standards are being consistently interpreted and taught in the classroom.

“The best way to do this is to focus on developing a common understanding of the standards through collaboration and refining our teaching through the cycles of learning,” Duncan said during his report.

Administration is not immune to the task of professional development. Administrators and department chairs make up a “Continuous Improvement Team”, which meets twice each quarter to discuss how things are going, what needs to be changed and what needs to be improved.

“The goal is to create a culture of collaboration,” Duncan said. “It’s been a long time where we have been so dedicated to teachers working together.”

Superintendent William Spalding was appreciative for all of Duncan’s efforts.

“I really want to thank Sean for all the work he’s done on this,” Spalding said. “It’s been an incredible task, and it’s had a huge impact on our culture and our teaching staff. Sean’s really leading and driving this process.”

Spalding went on to say that he anticipates many more positive reports as a result of this program.

“It’s a discipline and when it becomes inculcated and ingrained in the organization, you start to see some really significant improvements,” Spalding said.

Spalding said that, due to short time allowances, teacher collaboration often turns into just “checking off boxes”, but that is not what is happening under this new program.

“I’ve been to a lot of teacher collaborations in my lifetime, and I’ve never seen anything like what we’re seeing right now – the level of engagement and excitement and commitment,” Spalding said. “I see teachers really grappling with their standards and their assessments and having really spirited discussions. And we’re seeing some where the departments are meeting across the schools together, so this is a very exciting thing. We have this aim, but what we’re really doing is we’re teaching people how to collaborate. And, hopefully, this is something that get’s engrained in our culture.”

In other business, trustees:

• Celebrated Galt High School for receiving the Award of Excellence in Food Safety;

• Congratulated Galt High teacher Johnathan Jonas for receiving Teacher of the Year; and

• Renewed an employment contract through June 30, 2022 for Reihl, correcting the term of a contract approved earlier.