New school year raises old issues
Richard "Doc" Rioux · September 8,
The sun still rises in the east but is now moving closer to the south. Summer is giving way to fall, the Lombardis are growing pumpkins for Halloween, the Dodgers are in the running for the pennant, and tree leaves are getting rusty at the edges. The Marple Canyon fire and Castaic economic depression are over. Smoky clouds don't rise to block the blue sky anymore. Fish are jumping and you can hear boats roaring on the lake. It won't be long before we elect a president, worms surface in the rain, and people leave for Mammoth to ski the white powdered slopes of winter.
School has started. Thank God for little favors! I've talked to a lot of smiling mothers who echo one another from the canyons of their despair: "Summer is just too long!"
I don't know about your children, but my kids were happy to get going again. Boredom and too much television cripple the mind. America needs to lengthen the school year. Our kids go to school fewer days than any other kids living in the ten leading industrial nations of the world. Too much leisure time is not good for children, their parents or the towns we inhabit.
On Thursday morning there were more cars surrounding Stevenson Ranch School than were on the freeway. The place looked like Magic Mountain's Colossus absent electrical power with all the cars stuck on the hills and turns. Beginning at 8 a.m., parents and kids descended on the school like the Sioux did on George Custer at the Little Big Horn. George Patton wouldn't have been able to defend the grounds against the invasion. Kids and parents kept on coming in an undaunted stream storming the ramparts and occupying every nook and cranny of the one-year-old school facility.
There are some real issues ahead which the Newhall School District Board of Trustees will have to face. With more than 900 kids at Stevenson Ranch School, 900 at Newhall and only 500 or so at Old Orchard, the trustees must decide on redistricting once again. Homes are popping up in Stevenson Ranch like wild flowers in the spring. This place is a boom town. Seven new portables won't meet the demand for more seats at the school.
Big decisions for Good King Mike McGrath, Newhall's school superintendent. Will he retire this year? The Rockies in Colorado might look pretty nice after the fur flies and the trustees pluck the turkeys for the Easter redistricting roast. I like cranberry sauce with my turkey, and gravy with my mashed potatoes. What about you, Mike? How about some Valium with your milk and cookies before bed at night, or the Serenity Prayer before school board meetings? "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." Or is it: ". . . the wisdom to know when to leave town?"
We have good public schools in the Santa Clarita Valley, but we must work to make them better. We should support more parental involvement in junior and senior high schools, uniforms in every school, computers in every classroom, drug education programs for parents, enriched curricula for the best and the brightest students, enlistment of senior citizens as classroom volunteers, family literacy programs, and end to most state mandates, school-based curriculum development, and more security on campuses.
The present and future health of America must flow from what happens in each school. The school should be regarded as the center of the community, with all the spokes of the wheel leading to it. Churches, chambers of commerce and professional associations should use the facilities at night and on weekends for meetings and events. Schools are precious places where good things should be happening year-round.
When is the last time you attended a school board meeting? I know they can be pretty boring, but some can be interesting and entertaining. The one presently scheduled for Tuesday, September 17 at the Newhall district headquarters might be quite engaging, considering the imbalances in attendance at district schools. Will talk of a multi-track solution divide this valley once again? Will the Valencia Summiteers ever find a permanent home? Maybe they should have passed the bond issue a few years ago to build their own school. Residents in Stevenson Ranch paid nearly $1 million in Mello Roos taxes to help build the elementary school in their community. Someone suggested setting up a satellite school of portables in little-used Summit Park for the Summit children. The city might cooperate. It's an idea worth exploring.
The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. It takes a particle of light eight minutes to travel 93 million miles from the sun to earth and 100,000 years to cross the Milky Way Galaxy. We need more science taught in our elementary schools. Kids should aspire to be teachers and astronauts more than rock musicians, potheads and beach bums. They're tearing down the old Castaic School. I need to visit the new one. Life's journeys continue. Stevenson Ranch Elementary is at 921 kids and counting.
Dr. Richard Rioux is a resident of Stevenson
Ranch. His commentary appears on Sundays.
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