Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Power of Student Voice

...with Compton Early College High School Students
There is something powerful about student voice, as seemingly the entire world witnessed in the aftermath of the tragic events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. In authentic expressions of solidarity and collective action, students around the U.S. (as well as outside the U.S.) protested, walked out, sat in, held assemblies, shared stories, and called for change on March 14. 

In Compton Unified, we asked student leaders on each of our four high school campuses what they wanted to plan for that day. In concert with several other schools, our students organized thoughtful and inspiring assemblies that engaged the school community in dialogue, solidarity and a time of remembrance for the victims in Florida. They also reflected on their own personal experiences of losing friends and loved ones to gun violence. Middle school students followed suit, with assemblies and discussions to engage students in positive and peaceful dialogue.  

I must admit…

The phrase “walk out” can be intimidating, though there was no real talk of walk outs by our own students. As a superintendent, one can become flooded with concerns related to student safety, maintaining order, and minimizing disruptions related to instruction.

But this day was different. It was needed and it was important. So instead, we turned our focus to ensuring everything done that day, from a district perspective, remained steadfast in our commitment to protect both student safety and student voice. That meant honoring their decisions related to however they planned to observe that day. 

The result was a powerful and positive expression of student voice and consciousness that spoke volumes about the bright and compassionate students we have within our district and around the country. Many Compton Unified School District Teachers and administrators also joined in walking, sharing, standing in solidarity and commemorating for seventeen minutes to honor each of persons lost on that tragic day at Stoneman Douglas High School.

I did as well. As did Board Members.

It enabled us to lock arms with the very students we have been entrusted to educate and serve. It enabled us to listen and learn from their collective experiences. We were able to hear first-hand how they have been impacted by tragic events in their lives, and communities, as well as what makes them feel safe in their schools.

I encourage our students, parents, teachers and staff to continue uplifting and encouraging student expression and their involvement in civic issues. We at CUSD endeavor to foster students who are great learners and exceptional citizens that will contribute positively in the world. I believe our support of student voice can happen in both small, every day interactions, as well as huge impactful moments, such as on March 14. 

Here’s to the power of student voice. Give it a safe space and it can change the world.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Why Celebrate Black History Month?

This past Compton Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting, Board Members unanimously passed a resolution recognizing the month of February, 2018 as Black History Month. More importantly, the Board, through the Resolution, called on all schools to commemorate the month by incorporating in instructional activities, the recognition of the contributions of African Americans. 

But why do this EVERY year? Doesn’t Black History Month automatically take place every year in February? Why spend time on a formal resolution stating such?

The key lies in the word “resolved,” which in this context means “to declare.” The celebration and acknowledgement of the valuable contributions of African Americans throughout history, despite the struggles they had to face and the challenges they had to overcome, are absolutely important for us all to mark, to learn from and to DECLARE important to acknowledge.

This declaration prevents us from taking these contributions for granted and allowing them to fade off the pages of history. This declaration causes us to pay attention to black history in a way that will hopefully inspire us all to make our own unique and powerful impact in this world in spite of any challenges we may face.

This point is particularly poignant for Compton Unified School District, which has emerged from past struggles to now being a district where students are graduating and applying to college at historical rates; where students are using robotics to develop innovative solutions to world problems; where 21st CenturySkills are being taught by talented and passionate instructors, and where students have the opportunity to earn their high school and college diploma at the same time.

So yes, we must be resolved, be determined, to celebrate and commemorate Black History month…and we shall! There are activities happening throughout Compton Unified’s school campuses where the contributions of African Americans will be center-stage. I invite you to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to celebrate with us and spread the word that Compton Unified School District is a district committed to celebrating the entirety of all cultures represented in the district.

I also invite you to join us in our resolve (language from CUSD Board of Trustees Resolution below) to recognize, honor and never forget:

“WHEREAS, Americans of African descent helped develop our nation in countless ways, those recognized, unrecognized and unrecorded;

WHEREAS, African-American history reflects a determined spirit of perseverance and cultural pride in its struggle to equally share in the opportunities of a nation founded upon the principles of freedom and liberty for all people;

WHEREAS, in 1976, Black History month was established as a month-long celebration to reflect on the history, teachings, and achievements of African-Americans;

WHEREAS, the history and contributions of African-American citizens have consistently been overlooked, misinterpreted, and undervalued in the curriculum of public education institutions prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and

WHEREAS, the History-Social Science Framework for California Public Schools, Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve states that the history curriculum of community, state, region, nation, and world must reflect the experiences of men and women of different racial, religious, and ethnic groups and must be integrated at every level; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the Compton Unified School District’s Board of Trustees proclaims the month of February 2018 as African-American History Month and encourages all Compton Unified schools to commemorate this occasion with appropriate instructional activities.”

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Go To School—Stay in School

Every school within the Compton Unified School District is extremely concerned about student attendance.   The research is very clear on this subject.  Students who attend school on a regular basis perform significantly better than students who miss school three or more days per month.

A study conducted by Attendance Works indicated that students who are absent three or more days per month are at risk of performing one to two years below students who attend school every day.

Attendance issues tend to develop early on for families, occurring as early as kindergarten, and place children at a much higher risk for dropping out of school in the latter part of their educational journey.

Encouraging your child to attend school daily is a proactive step to prepare your child for success. Students who attend school regularly have a better chance of graduating high school and fulfilling their college and career goals.

Sometimes children get sick. If they are sick—really sick-- they should stay home.

But a lot of reasons children don’t attend school might be they have to care for another family member, or they don’t want to attend because of their emotions, or they have dental and doctor’s appointments.  Concerning appointments, we know it is difficult to schedule appointments that fit within schedules.  However, we encourage you to make sure that your child attends school for the portion of the day that does not conflict with the appointment.

I understand that in our community there are a number of economic and social challenges that can impact a family and thus a child’s attendance in school.  Please feel free to contact the school and find out what services are available to assist your needs. We have several partnerships with agencies and we want to assist you in meeting your needs. But if the child doesn’t attend school, it really ties our hands.

Does your child miss more than one day of school per month?

It doesn’t seem like much until you realize over the course of a school year that your child has missed 10 or more days per year.   Those who miss 18 days per school year are chronically absent from school.  Students who are chronically absent are at a much greater risk of low performance in school and many who continue in this fashion eventually drop out of school by the time they are in high school.

We can truly make a difference in the lives of each and every child by doing what we can to decrease student absences.

The statistics are clear: children who attend school daily perform significantly higher than those who don’t.  Let’s work together to make sure that each and every child within the Compton Unified School District attends school daily.  Their success in the future depends on it.

To put it another way: “If they go to school, they’ll stay in school”

And that’s a good result for all of us.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

As Compton Classes Open Optimism Is High

As the 2016-17 school year begins, we should all be very optimistic about what’s happening in the Compton Schools.
The turnaround which has been evident in increasing graduation rates and increasing test scores has been accelerating. For instance, did you know earlier this year that we reported graduation rates a full 10 points above the year earlier? And we expect when we report results this year, the graduation rates will increase again!
The success of our students is our top priority here in Compton. We’ve been succeeding by developing home-grown talent to run our schools. This year, of our 20 new principals and administrators, 17 of them were promoted from within the Compton School District.
We have been developing this talent in our district over the last several years. Because these leaders know our city and our schools, I expect we will see further improved classroom results especially within the elementary schools, Middle Schools and High Schools. We will continue to provide coaching and training to the people in those new positions.
We believe this is a recipe for long-lasting success in our schools that will benefit our community.
Let me discuss our emphasis on student safety. We know our students can’t learn if they don’t feel safe. That’s why we have worked to make our schools the safest places in Compton.  
Our School Board has given our Compton Police resources to make sure that our campuses are safe. But it doesn’t stop there. Our teachers, administrators are staff are constantly monitoring our campuses to make sure that our students are safe.
It’s working.
Also, we are working with the city of Compton to develop a Joint Youth Agreement that will allow more access to our school grounds for youth oriented activities in our city.
We believe the safety and success of our children benefits our community not only today but for the future.  
Finally, let me urge our parents to get involved in their children’s education. For them to succeed we need parents, teachers and students are pulling in the same direction. Get involved with your child’s school. It will benefit all of us to have more parents involved.
Yes, it’s going to be a great year and we are glad to get it started!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Compton Unified’s Commitment to Excellence Honored

The Compton Unified School District has been placed on the Sixth Annual AP® Honor Roll list by the College Board. We are one of 425 School Districts to be honored this year.

Your high schools are being recognized for both increasing the number of students who are enrolling and successfully completing Advanced Placement (AP) classes. AP classes can be as challenging as introductory college courses. They are fast-paced, cover more material than traditional courses, and require independent work like research, writing, and analysis.

While students from all backgrounds can benefit from taking challenging coursework in high school, data from 2015 show that among African American, Hispanic, and Native American students with the potential to succeed in AP, only about half take AP courses.

I believe strongly that EVERY child has the capacity to succeed in school and in life. It is why we live by the motto of having our students “college and career” ready. And we know (and believe) that if students are given the opportunity to succeed at the highest level, many will seize the opportunity.

It is why increasing the number of students who take and succeed in AP was a goal that we outlined in our Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), which we adopted after engaging parents, educators, employees and the community.

Inclusion on the Sixth Annual AP District Honor Roll is based on the examination of three years of AP data from 2013 to 2015. These nationwide measurable achievements in AP classes are noteworthy and newsworthy.

It was Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. who said “Education must enable a man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the legitimate goals of his life.” He wrote that in 1947 when he was in college. If he wrote it today, he would say “a man and a woman.” But the message is clear. For our children to succeed, they must be put in opportunities to succeed.

That’s what we are doing every single day at Compton Unified. Congratulations to our hard working young men and women and their teachers and parents for making us all proud.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

2016 Begins and So Do We

Welcome back to school. I hope that all the families of Compton had an enjoyable holiday break. We are ready to get back to work --- and know that our students, teachers and staff are poised for a great second half of the school year.

We will continue our efforts to increase graduation rates in the Compton School District. Teachers and administrators are working with our students, particularly those who are struggling in the classroom to continue the upward trend in high school graduation rates that we’ve enjoyed in recent years. Earlier intervention with students whose grades are below a “C” has been helping students improve. We’ll continue that tactic.

I hope you’ve had a chance to see the new look underway at Emerson Elementary and Bunche Middle School. Since the holiday break we’ve been put the finishing touches on new fields at the two schools. The transformation is remarkable. We continue to upgrade our facilities at the Compton schools knowing that when you transform how a school looks, you often transform the school itself.

One of the big issues facing us in the classroom is the adoption of new Language Arts materials for our students. We’ll be informing you about that in the coming days and weeks.

Did you know that students who are involved in extracurricular activities do better in the classroom? If your child isn’t involved in some activity in school, urge him or her to do so.

Finally, congratulations to School Board Member Satra Zurita who was elected the new President of the School Board in December. Also, it’s a pleasure to welcome Sandra Moss, our newly elected board member.  We look forward to working with them and all our school board members to make sure that our students (and your children) are college and career ready.

Happy New Year!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Superintendent's Blog - Parents: Get More Involved In Compton Schools

All parents want their children to do well. I surely do. Every single parent I’ve met feels the same way.

One way our children succeed is by doing better in the classroom—and believe it or not, that’s where the parents come in.  Parents need to be more involved in their child’s education.

The research conducted right here in Southern California by a coalition of groups devoted to education tells an important story.  The more parents are engaged in their child’s education, the greater chances he or she will have for academic success.

At Compton Unified we absolutely believe this to be true; an important truth that can, if we all work together, improve the lives of our students by making school a place where they can succeed. It is true for everyone, regardless of ethnicity, age, geography, income or a parent’s education: Engaged parents are vital for student success.

And in Compton Unified, we don’t just talk about parent engagement—we’ve put it into action.

Greg Ogomaka, our Director of Special Projects and Adriana Real, our Parent Involvement Coordinator, have put together an amazing team of Community Relations Specialists (CRS) at all of the Compton schools – people who are on the front line of our parent engagement efforts. 

There’s Claudia Soto at Mayo Elementary School, who is featured on our community and district websites. This video shows her work as an example of how Compton Unified is working to make sure that parents are true partners in their children's success in school.

We know that parents are busy—often both parents work and if there’s only one parent in the house, that person is even busier. So you can’t always come to meetings or events. There are still many ways for parents to get involved and support their child’s education.

Here are some ways:
Find out more at: 

You can also call Adriana Real at our Parent Center, (310) 639-4321, ext. 54894. She and her staff will help you with questions you may have.

You also can contact your child’s teacher or principal (I strongly encourage you to do that anyway—you’ll find someone who is trying to help your child and the more they know you the better it is for your child). 

For our Spanish speaking parents, let me also suggest this Univision website (  which is designed specifically to show parents how to get involved - tips, classes, online resources, experts, videos.

There are many good things happening in the Compton schools. Our students are doing much better in the classroom, our graduation rates are increasing, we have had schools recognized for state and national awards, and there is optimism that we can continue and accelerate this turnaround in the months and years to come.

We can get there if our parents are part of the journey.

Get involved! It’s good for you, your child, and our schools.

We hope to see you soon!