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School board agrees on value of Career Choices

May 16, 2014

BUHS Trustee Trina Orrill

The Bishop Unified School District’s trustees were unanimous in their support of Career Choices as a requirement for incoming freshman, but split on the future of geography as a required course.
The trustees voted 3-2 on the motion made by Trina Orrill to replace geography with Career Choices but keep geography in the curriculum as a one-semester elective.
The decision was made at Thursday’s Board of Trustees meeting after a debate that picked up where it left off at the special meeting held Monday.
Neither course is a state requirement for graduation. Board members, administrators and teachers in attendance expressed support for both courses. As the discussion wound down, district Superintendent Barry Simpson told the trustees staff would figure out a way to implement whatever decision they made.
The first motion was the easy one: include Career Choices as a freshman requirement in the coming school year.
The program will follow the Santa Barbara Unified School District model, helping ninth graders assess their strengths and interests as the first step in defining an education/life plan. As Bishop Union High School Principal Randy Cook described at Monday’s meeting, Career Choices focuses on the relevance of education to a student’s future.
In response to the assertion that 14-year-olds have no idea what they want to be “when they grow up,” trustee Carl Lind brought up his experience working with high school students at Bishop Veterinary Hospital. “I’ve seen kids have doors closed to them by the time they figure out what they want to do with their lives.”
Career Choices is designed to make sure those doors stay open.
While support for the program was unanimous, the question of where to put it remained.
The primary slot appeared to be the current flex period, a 30-minute “homeroom” style period held four days a week. However, Simpson and Cook had made the point that Choices was designed as a full 50-minute, five-day-a-week course and the impact would be diluted in the process of squeezing it into the flex time slot. In addition, the students who would benefit most from Career Choices were those who currently benefited from tutoring during the 30-minute flex period.
According to Vice Principal David Kalk, there was a possibility of pairing geography with driver’s education as sophomore electives. Other geography options included adding the course as an enhancement course during flex period.
Teacher Jeff Perry spoke out in support of keeping geography as intact as possible. “Social studies courses are scaffoled,” he said. “What comes after geography (world history) assumes a knowledge of geography.”
Trina Orrill was the swing vote between Lind and Kathy Zack, strongly in favor of keeping Career Choices a full course even if it meant eliminating the geography requirement, and Eric Richman and Tom Stephenson, in favor of keeping geography in its present form. “I’m not comfortable eliminating geography,” she said. “But I see the importance, the necessity, of Career Choices.”
Lind made the initial motion to eliminate geography as a required freshman course and directed staff to come back with recommendations on how to still offer the course. The motion was defeated 3-2. Orrill amended Lind’s motion to “assure that geography would be offered.” That motion passed 3-2.

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