There are changes coming to local schools that will include improvements to campus safety and an opportunity for young students to get acquainted with popular technology.
Inyo County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Terry McAteer addressed the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, updating the county leaders on progress local schools are making on technology upgrades and safety issues, as well as ideas to improve programs and address funding issues that may impact local districts.
Starting with school safety, a subject he said is at the forefront of most minds, McAteer said school districts are working closely with local law enforcement to ensure campuses are safe.
“Inyo schools are not (immune) to what happened in Connecticut,” McAteer told the Board Tuesday.
He said that each campus has been visited by an Inyo County sheriff’s deputy and recommendations are being implemented.
At Bishop Union High School, McAteer said, all adult staff and visitors are required to wear a lanyard that identifies them as staff members or visitors and all who enter the campus are now required to use the front doors of the school.
McAteer also said that drug-sniffing dogs are not an uncommon sight at local schools are also trained to sniff out gun ammunition on campus. He added that under state law, school and law enforcement officials can search anyone within 500 yards of a school campus.
Another part of the school safety issue, McAteer said, is prevention.
“We are identifying families (of at-risk students) and initiating mandatory counseling,” McAteer said, adding that Inyo County school districts have requested that law enforcement get involved with a family twice in recent weeks.
McAteer said the Superintendent’s Office is making its North Star Counseling centers available to families. More than 100 families are currently utilizing the resource, and the Superintendent’s Office is covering the $35 fee for families with a student enrolled in a local school.
Looking to the future, McAteer said he is working with County Librarian Nancy Masters to implement what he calls a “library Renaissance” that will improve technology in county libraries and offer more hours of operation.
McAteer said his office is willing to purchase the technology, furniture, infrastructure and training and “revamp” the children’s section in the libraries.
He hopes that project will be completed in June of 2013.
McAteer also said Inyo schools are adding technology to the every-day curriculum by providing iPod touches, iPads and other tools for students.
McAteer said kindergarten through second-grade students at Death Valley Unified School District are already using iPods, and by the end of the next school year he hopes to be able to provide lap tops to students in third- through fifth-grade countywide.
Funding for such programs comes through the charter schools in Southern California that are operated by the Inyo County Superintendent of School’s Office.
McAteer said his office is managing 15 charter schools with 1,400 students. Those schools are open to urban high school drop-outs who want to return for a diploma.
Those schools, like standard schools, are funded based on average daily attendance. Thanks to the charter schools, McAteer said Inyo has the fastest growing student population in the state and revenue has increased by 40 percent over the past four years.
While that increase in revenue is encouraging, McAteer said Governor Jerry Brown’s revision of school funding has created some uncertainties.
Among other changes, McAteer said that Regional Occupational Program classes, which have traditionally been under the direction of the Superintendent of School’s Office, will be transferred to individual school districts. McAteer said the various county school districts and his office are working on developing a joint powers agreement that will allow the schools to cooperate on ROP curriculum and continue to offer a cohesive, countywide program.
In closing, McAteer gave each member of the board a copy of this year’s Community Reads book, “Into the Beautiful North” by Luis Urrea, and invited them to participate in upcoming Community Reads events.