The Poly Spotlight

COMMUNITY: On Wednesday October 26, 2017, Riverside Unified School District (RUSD) held a meeting at the Riverside Convention Center to discuss the current state of our district and the happenings within. 

By Kaley Pederson, Staff Writer

The “State of the District” meeting was a discussion about community events and plans happening within RUSD. With 42,000 students in the district, the students and their successes encourage the RUSD Board of Education to improve the quality of their education. Those who spoke at the meeting were Board President Brent Lee, District Superintendent Dr. David Hansen, and Poly student Ayanna Johnson (12). President Lee explained a system called “The Professional Growth System,” which guides teachers, new and old, to gain the proper tools towards being an “effective” teacher. “It is our job [the district’s] to assess every student’s unique abilities and needs to provide equitable opportunities,” President Lee said following his talk regarding the Professional Growth System. President Lee assured the audience that RUSD has constantly made an effort to ensure that the 42,000 students are well equipped to move onto college and the real world.

RUSD has also partnered with neighboring universities and colleges to prepare its students and guide them towards success. They allow students to jump ahead and gain college credits as high school students through Riverside City College (RCC). This is especially beneficial for students who know that they will be attending RCC, or any other community college, ensuring that they can transfer to a four-year university in a two-year span because they have jumped ahead with college credits. University of California, Riverside (UCR) has also partnered with RUSD to build a new STEM High School campus. STEM, a school system that focuses primarily on science, technology, engineering, and math, is transferring its middle and high school onto the UCR campus grounds. In an attempt to bring in diverse students from all over the city, RUSD will accommodate transportation to the new STEM campus. 

Another program in effect is the “Dual-Language Immersion Program,” a program created to ensure that English-language learners are actually progressing and effectively learning English. President Lee also discussed how the African-American community feels they are not learning enough about their heritage or legacy, which leads to a disinterest in school. For this community and other minorities, the district will establish more African-American Heritage and Legacy programs. This is not to bypass the units in history class, but to spend more time on the topic and gain a true understanding of the events.

District Superintendent Dr. David Hansen continued on with the theme of community explaining that “education is the heart of the community.” Dr. Hansen revealed that our community worked effortlessly together, especially at the beginning of our 2017-2018 school year. “During the first week of school, the hottest week of the year, RUSD learned that Highgrove Elementary was without any power,” Dr. Hansen informed the attendees. “As a result, Sandals Church stepped in and gave the Elementary School a home until their power returned.” The heart of the community was not an overstatement, and Sandals stepped in without hesitation. “Our focus on learning and well-being is not just an initiative. It is a priority,” Dr. Hansen assured the audience. Dr. Hansen also reassured that our community is safe for everyone “regardless of ethnicity, background, or immigration status,” and that there is a place for everyone in the RUSD family. He also addressed that our district has social, emotional, and psychological counselors for the wellbeing of our students. This is especially important because of recent tragedies that have struck the RUSD community such the passing of North High School avid tutor Oscar Davia, Poly Graduate Angela Gomez, Poly Teacher Leo Caudill, and a Lake Matthews Student Chris Mans.

Ayanna Johnson (12), who was given the opportunity to speak in front of the attendees, referenced a book titled “The Five People You Meet In Heaven” by Mitch Albom. The book’s prime focus is that when you die there will be five people there who, based on your encounter with them, took your life in a new direction and helped shape who you became. Johnson spoke about the five Poly teachers who have taken her life into new directions. As she described her family’s hardships, Johnson informed the audience that she conquers a 68 mile round-trip drive everyday between school and home. Her reason? Johnson explained that it was for the education, teachers, and Poly community. She made it clear that Poly High School is more than just a high school; it is a family. Johnson was approached by Poly Principal Dr. Michael J. Roe her sophomore year with an idea to engage in conversations with with students all over campus regarding race, mental health, and compassion. Her development with this program, relating to Poly’s “Making Caring Common” initiative, has proven that education is the heart of the community because of the incredible staff, outstanding students, and quality curriculum.  

Johnson represented Poly by exemplifying what it means to be a part of our community and explaining how well supported she was (and is) among all other Poly students, teachers, and other faculty. President Lee and Dr. Hansen directly informed the attendees of recent events and the importance of education in our community.

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