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Principal leaves strong legacy working with students

San Antonio High School has been on an upward swing in many ways over the past years.

Attendance at the local continuation school, which had grown to 88.78 percent by the 2011-2012 school year, continues to improve. Suspension rates have fallen in the last 2 years.

Last year, San Antonio was named one of the 25 Model Continuation Schools in California, a title the school will retain through the 2013-2014 school year. The designation recognizes continuation schools demonstrating “exemplary program effectiveness in school management, curriculum, instructional strategies, educational climate, and guidance and counseling.”

Come this fall, Principal Steven Boyd, who has been instrumental to such successes, will trade his place at the helm of San Antonio and the associated Community Day School for a position at the district office.

At a recent school board meeting, several community members expressed dismay at Mr. Boyd’s removal from the school. During public comment, Russ Frank, a director at the Riverside County Office of Education, questioned whether the district was fully aware of the current strengths of the SAHS program.

After acknowledging he is a personal friend of Mr. Boyd’s, he cited numbers that point to the contribution Mr. Boyd made during his 9 years at SAHS. Student proficiency, as measured by passage of the CAHSEE (the high school exit exam), has risen by some 60 percent over the past 2 years, Mr. Frank said. When you compare SAHS to 4 other continuation schools in the region, it has the lowest dropout rate, he added.

Mr. Frank’s wife Barbara, a longtime school counselor, then took to the podium to attest to the emotional component of Mr. Boyd’s connection with students. She cited the remarkable “buy-in” SAHS students exhibit, much of which she attributes to the high level of “communication, respect and appreciation” they receive from Mr. Boyd. At San Antonio, she said, kids who were once struggling have been able to find “academic success, social success and self-esteem.”

Mr. Boyd’s end-of-year presentation on SAHS’ Single Plan for Student Achievement, made at the June 6 CUSD board meeting, drew sharp criticism from board member Hilary La Conte, who requested data relating to the 89 students at SAHS be broken down by subgroup. Board member Mary Caenepeel scrutinized details of his presentation by requesting Mr. Boyd “state numbers rather than percentages” in his future reports to the board. Some concluded Mr. Boyd’s removal was a performance-based issue.

According to Claremont Unified School District Superintendent Jim Elsasser, however, Mr. Boyd’s new position does not represent any type of demotion. Instead, he said, the decision was based on the need for the administrator’s technological expertise in preparation for 2015, when the district joins schools across the country in transitioning to new testing and curriculum standards.

“He has a real interest and passion for technology,” Mr. Elsasser said. “We need someone to work with the tech team as we transition to the Common Core. It’s a very big project.”

Mr. Boyd says he’s ready to “move onto something bigger.”

“For the technology piece, we’ll be taking a look at what’s most cost-effective in the long run—iPad, tablet, laptop, the full range,” he said. “The most exciting part is that how we implement the whole Common Core is going to change everything in teaching.”

Proponents of the assessment change say the Common Core, a new form of assessment that will replace the Standard Testing and Reporting Program (STAR testing), will help education across the United States become more rigorous and uniform and better prepare students for higher education and the workforce.

Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed 2013-2014 budget includes $1.25 billion to help California schools transition to the Common Core. While he has yet to direct how it should be spent, CUSD will be devoting some resources to Mr. Boyd’s new position. 

Making a difference

Mr. Boyd is known for having an extraordinary rapport with students. SAHS Class of 2013 representative Aimee Orcasitas spoke to this connection in her June 13 address at the San Antonio High School (SAHS) graduation, held in conjunction with the Claremont High School graduation.

She arrived at SAHS, with a remarkably poor attendance record in danger of not graduating, holding a “tainted image” of Claremont’s continuation high school. Once she arrived and “was welcomed with open arms by Mr. Boyd,” Aimee said she realized there was a high commitment to provide her with the individualized education she needed to complete high school and move on.

In his time at San Antonio High School, Mr. Boyd asserts he has learned much from his students.

“I’ve learned that they’re all totally different, that they all have a certain set of needs,” he said. “And that’s what we do in alternative ed, to hopefully fulfill those needs and help them grow.”

While he will miss SAHS, he is focusing on the positive aspects of the move. There is always, he says, the possibility that over-familiarity with the campus could lead him to overlook glaring problems.

“I’ve been here for 9 years. That’s a long time for most any principal,” he said. “I’d hate to be the person who has been walking around and doing things so many times it becomes natural.”

Mr. Boyd, whom Mr. Elsasser acknowledges loves his students, and says he fully expects he will be back working with students in the future.

—Sarah Torribio

storribio@claremont-courier.com

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