Six out of 10 students in the Santa Barbara Unified School District are socioeconomically disadvantaged. Almost 10% is non-residential. About 13% have developmental disabilities and 15% are beginners learning more than one language.
However, the district has 95% high school diplomas.
Those statistics were among the information shared Thursday by Hilda Maldonado, superintendent of the Santa Barbara Unified School District, at the Santa Barbara Education Foundation’s annual State of Our Schools event.
“I want to make sure you thank your principals, our teachers and our cabinet for getting us there,” she said.
Maldonado, hired in 2020, appears to have succeeded as supervisor.
Pedro Paz, executive director of the Santa Barbara Education Foundation, introduced Maldonado, who glided up the steps to the stage as Alphaville’s uplifting song “Forever Young” soared through the speakers at the Carrillo Recreation Center.
“That’s my coming out song, in case you’re wondering,” Maldonado said. “Welcome, good morning and buenos dias.”
About 200 people attended, including educators and elected officials.
Maldonado spoke about how education and learning have been transformed, highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Maldonado, a Mexican immigrant, said she could never have imagined the technology of today’s world and that learning would take place on a screen.
To demonstrate, she showed a video of the artificial intelligence program CһatGPT on a large screen. She entered, “What is knowledge, teaching and learning?” and the program featured a talk, defining knowledge, teaching in the 21st century and “how teachers are now facilitators and guides”.
She read from the Chat GPT text: “Overall, knowledge, teaching and learning in the 21st century are characterized by increasing access to information, student-centred approaches, technology integration, digital literacy and a shift towards lifelong learning.
“These changes reflect the need for individuals to prepare for an increasingly complex and interconnected world,” he said.
Maldonado joked, “Here’s my speech. That’s all you need to know,” prompting laughter from the audience.
Maldonado painted a picture of teamwork and cooperation and tapped into the theme that technology unites. What was created for a few, serves the needs of all, she said.
The district has about 12,000 students. Of these, 61% are Latino, 31% are Caucasian, 2.5% are Asian, 2.8% are biracial, and nearly 1% are African American/Black, Filipino, Pacific Islander, and American Indian.
She praised the change to Universal Access, which combined honors and prep students in one classroom.
“This is equity in action,” Maldonado said. “We don’t talk about it, we do it, and I’m so proud of our teachers and administrators for adapting and innovating — but most importantly, they’re asking us to do real work.”
She discussed how the district invested in teacher professional development. The district spent more than $5 million hiring “specialty” teachers at each elementary school to teach art, music and physical education.
“This allows our elementary students to use the time to prepare and work on ways to improve their practice while they are students with their ‘special’ teachers,” Maldonado said. “Work-based learning time is an innovative way to collaborate.”
Maldonado said that for the first time since 2007, all elementary school teachers will have a common set of reading teaching materials.
“When you’re teaching kids to read and write, it’s important to have the right tools for teachers,” Maldonado said, explaining that the district approved the Wit & Wisdom/Foundations curriculum.
Adopting the new instructional materials was a huge task and began in January with an evaluation process that was intentionally designed to include teachers from all grades and schools, new multilingual learners specialists, special education specialists, literacy and language specialists, principals and administrators, Maldonado said.
About 200 people gathered at the Carrillo Recreation Center to hear Superintendent Hilda Maldonado address the state of the Santa Barbara Unified School District. Credit: Josһua Molina / Noozһavk pһoto
One of the highlights of Maldonado’s speech was when she showed a video of students learning multiple languages explaining why reading is important.
One child said, “When I read, I also feel like I’m on the beach where the waves are breaking. It makes me calm.”
Another student in the video said, “It takes me to a place and I reach people in other people’s places.”
Maldonado said she envisions a world where there are book fairs, writing contests, reading gardens where students can curl up with a book under a tree, celebrity guest readers in classrooms and a multicultural festival that celebrates reading and opens windows to the world.
“What if we held Literacy Week in the cities of Goleta and Santa Barbara, where we celebrate reading and writing to motivate children to read, bring the joy of reading to students of all ages, and make all children feel safe, valued and welcome?” Maldonado said.
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