Students, parents, and faculty of a Sacramento County school that has achieved dramatic success shared their experiences with Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools David W. Gordon and California Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell on October 27. Superintendents Gordon and O'Connell were special guests at Foothill Farms Junior High, located in Sacramento within the Grant Joint Union High School District.
Welcoming Superintendents Gordon and O'Connell were Grant Joint Union High School District Superintendent Larry Buchanan and Foothill Farms Junior High School Principal Leslie Mankoski. Participants in morning roundtable discussions included school board members, district administrators, teachers, staff, students, and family members. Present were members of the Sacramento County Office of Education SAIT — School Assistance and Intervention Team — that worked closely with staff and students of Foothill Farms Junior High School to examine areas in which the school could improve and help implement strategies to achieve improvement. SCOE SAIT members present were team leader Bill Palmer, former Director of the Regional School Support and Improvement Center at SCOE; Mark Calonico, Curriculum Specialist, K–12 Reading-Language Arts; Paul Pechin, former Program Manager, Secondary Mathematics; and ELL Visiting Educator Mary Coronado Calvario. Also attending was Dr. Joyce Wright, SCOE's Assistant Superintendent, Instructional Support Services.
Starting in early 2003, SAIT members helped the school identify strengths and weaknesses in key program components that are essential to instructional success, and to assist teachers, administrators, and staff in planning and enacting strategies to improve student learning. As a result of the SAIT process, the school improved its California API (Academic Performance Index) standing by 50 points. Foothill Farms Junior High also reached its AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) targets. Moreover, the percentage of students in math who scored at or above the proficient level doubled in the past year.
Following the roundtable discussions, students attended an assembly in the school gym and were congratulated by Superintendents Gordon and O'Connell for their outstanding achievement. In turn, the students saluted the teachers, administrators, superintendents, and SAIT members with a standing ovation. Superintendent Larry Buchanan presented Principal Leslie Mankoski with a check for the purchase of supplies and materials for the school.
Superintendent Gordon said, "The Sacramento County Office of Education is pleased to partner with the Grant Joint Union High School District and Foothill Farms Junior High School to help this school in its quest for academic excellence." He attributed the school's success to the collaborative relationship between the SAIT members, students, parents, teachers, staff, administrators, and school board members. He said, "The achievement we are applauding today is the result of teamwork and a positive approach to implementing change." Superintendent O'Connell reiterated the importance of collaborative effort, emphasizing how other schools and districts throughout the state can learn from the achievement at Foothill Farms Junior High School. He concluded, "This is really going to be the model for us."