– Jim Rogers says he’s got some unfinished business to take care
of at the Gilroy Unified School District. And he’s got the
to do list
to prove it.
GILROY – Jim Rogers says he’s got some unfinished business to take care of at the Gilroy Unified School District. And he’s got the “to do list” to prove it.
Printed on one side of Rogers’ campaign flyer door hanger, the “to do list” is a six-item deep rundown of what the Gilroy school board president plans to accomplish if voters elect him to a second term Nov. 5. His goals range from improving student achievement and retaining quality teachers to equalizing facilities district-wide and improving communication between home and school.
Rogers, a former and longtime GUSD educator and administrator, has six additional points to make on the other side of that door hanger. That’s the list which reveals what has been accomplished since he was elected to the board four years ago. Rogers highlights steadily improving test scores, long range facility planning and improved cooperation between the school and City of Gilroy as some of those accomplishments.
“The first two years were rather turbulent. We had a superintendent who wasn’t entirely focused on the goal of student achievement,” Rogers said. “Over the last two years I think the district has stabilized.”
It may have stabilized, but the district also is planning for the future. On the ballot is a bond measure – Measure I – that if approved will bring $69 million to the GUSD for the construction of a new high school and the repair and renovation of several other Gilroy public schools.
Facilities, in general, and Measure I, specifically, are key issues for Rogers, the district’s former coordinator of operations, maintenance and transportation.
“If this passes, it allows us to proceed with a facility plan that I worked on (with others) during these first four years,” Rogers said.
If it doesn’t pass, “the portables will continue to come in” and “you start using the library for a classroom; everybody loses out,” Rogers said. Rogers stressed that, if re-elected, he would see that the district does its best to regroup and implement emergency housing plans in the event Measure I fails.
“We’ve talked about it. We’ve gotten the questions of ‘What if?'” Rogers said.
Rogers said he would stress the use of partnerships when building new facilities in the district. He cited the gymnasium at Ascenscion Solorsano Middle School as an example of fiscally responsible cooperation between the City of Gilroy and the school district.
The middle school campus, which is currently under construction, will get a $2 million multipurpose gym compliments of the city. The city will use the gymnasium at nights and on weekends for various programs, activities and sports leagues. The middle school will use it during weekdays.
Whether Gilroy High School should have reinstated its honors program for this school year was among the turbulent issues Rogers dealt with in his first term. Although he did not endorse a permanently reinstated honors program via his “to do list,” Rogers’ stance is clear.
“Frankly, I have no problem with offering an honors program,” Rogers said. “I think the key in a community like Gilroy is open enrollment. If a person wants to be challenged and is up to the task, then they should be allowed to participate.”
Rogers isn’t willing to “just open the doors and say ‘come in,'” he said. He’d like to see some sort of interview process where students have to present an academic résumé that shows they could handle the particular honors class they want to take.
Honors courses at GHS are currently in a trial phase during the 2002-03 school year. A special committee is reviewing how the program works and by the end of the year will make a recommendation to the superintendent and the school board whether to keep it alive.
“I think that the study group will come up with a recommendation to have honors programs at the high school for grades nine through 12. That’s my prediction,” said Rogers.
Since Rogers was elected to the board, California has placed a heavier emphasis on standardized tests. For the past three years, the state has issued performance improvement goals individual schools must meet. If schools don’t meet those goals, they lose funding opportunities and can face intervention from the state.
The emphasis doesn’t bother Rogers, but he would like to see other educational experiences factor into how schools and districts are judged.
“(Standardized tests) are good as part of the whole package,” Rogers said.
Rogers cited participation by Gilroy students in a recent cancer walk as an example of an educational experience that needs to be in the curriculum, but can’t necessarily be evaluated by a standardized exam.
“Colleges looking at kids certainly want to see good SAT scores, but essays, interviews and senior projects are factors in admission, too,” Rogers said. “A kid who is interested in art should have a way of showing what he’s done, but that’s not standardized.”
Rogers says he has a positive outlook on the district budget and believes it is in good hands locally, but notes that California’s budget-lean times will be a factor for trustees over the next years.
“We’re not rolling in dough,” Rogers said. “You can never just sit back and say ‘we’re in good shape.’ We’re in good shape for this year, but I hope the economy improves some.”
Rogers did not predict any significant budget shortfalls for Gilroy, noting that Proposition-98, passed in 1988, ensures that schools receive at least the same amount of funding they received in the prior year. But he sees trends on the state level that may one day change how education is funded in California.
“Frankly, the state would like to get out of the school business, as far as funding school facilities is concerned,” Rogers said. “I think that they’d like to come up with some sort of formula that would be like the rate they pay for each kid attending school. You get $5,000 per kid to teach them and you get $500 a year to house them.”
Rogers said the fee charged to developers, which is intended to help fund new school construction, is not enough to house Gilroy’s public school students.
“Needless to say, that’s why we need Measure I,” Rogers said.