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Colusa, Maxwell, Lady Of Lourdes classes kick off
A small collection of brown paper lunch bags sat on the front counter at Our Lady of Lourdes School on Wednesday — evidence that it was indeed the first day of classes.
But outside, a couple of sandwiches left at home by students rushed to get to school on time, Principal Barbara Genera, starting her 25th year in the post and 34th year with the school, said all has gone well.
"They seem to be ready to learn," Genera said of the 105 students enrolled in the Catholic school.
And like the public schools, Our Lady of Lourdes is implementing the new core standards in English arts-language and math adopted by the state.
"They are more rigorous than the previous California standards," Genera said.
And getting ready for the new curriculum, means getting the teachers prepared.
"We already have spent 10 to 12 hours before school started, and we will be spending at least four hours each month developing the teachers (on the new standards)," Genera said.
The changes in the core standards, and the inevitable changes in textbooks, is why Maxwell Unified Superintendent Ron Turner is looking for grant funds to turn the high school into an e-campus.
"An e-school is a school where we do away with regular textbooks and go to electronic books, and I am trying to find grants to pay for it," said Turner, who also serves as principal at all the campuses, which opened the 2012-13 school year on Wednesday.
The district lost about a half dozen students this year, and with each student goes state money for a district that is already stressed financially.
He said each standard textbook costs about $100, and will eventually need to be updated or replaced.
Electronic options will be far less expensive outside the initial investment, he said.
"But that is just a pipe dream, I'm not sure I can make it happen," Turner said.
In the meantime, Turner said the first few days of classes went very well.
The district is adjusting to losing five teachers who had a combined 152 years of experience, and while admitting that is a loss, Turner said the district has been able to rehire some experienced teachers and have found some young enthusiastic instructors who bring new energy and ideas to the district. The new faces at Colusa Unified include the Superintendent Dwayne Newman, high school Principal Darren Brown and the largest kindergarten enrollment in district history — 141.
The district has a total of 1,439 students enrolled as of Friday.
Even before classes started for the students on Wednesday, Newman was letting the staff know what his expectations and philosophy was during an assembly on Monday.
"We need to value everyone for the important role they play in our system. There is no hierarchy of importance here," Newman said.
"We need our kids transported to school safely, we need to get nutritious meals into them, we need accurate record keeping, we need parents to be involved, and we need students to have the best possible instruction in our classrooms. If any of the parts are missing, the system just does not function."
He indicated the need for the staff to re-examine their current practices, get feedback from other professionals and to emphasize results with measurable data.
"For too long, our profession focused on what we put into the system. We talked about every new program, class offering, experience, and effort," Newman said.
"However, we never talked about the effect those efforts had on student achievement. We need to look at all our actions through that lens: What is it doing to help our kids achieve? And be able to objectively measure that impact."