Highlighting progress as school year winds down

by Jim Elsasser, superintendent of the Claremont Unified School District

It is an exciting time for Claremont Unified School District. CUSD has had a long standing tradition of excellence in academics, the arts, athletics and extracurricular and co-curricular activities. 

As the 2013-2014 school year comes to an end, I would like to highlight several of the accomplishments that have supported this tradition of excellence.

For the first time in 40 years, the state of California significantly changed the funding formula for K-12 public schools with the adoption of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). The final dollar amount in LCFF for the 2014-2015 school year will be established when the state budget is adopted in June.

One of the major requirements in LCFF is that all school districts develop a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) that aligns districts’ financial resources with their educational goals. The State Board of Education has adopted eight priority areas that districts must address in their LCAP: student achievement, student engagement, school climate, parental involvement, course access, basic services, other student outcomes and Common Core State Standards. The LCAP requires districts to solicit input from stakeholders in the development of its goals in these eight priority areas. CUSD developed an LCAP Advisory Council consisting of community members representing the Central Parent Faculty Association, local colleges and universities, the Fairplex, Baldy View Regional Occupation Program, CUSD certificated and classified staff, students and administrators. The advisory council met on five occasions and conducted a town hall meeting where the entire community was invited to provide input on the eight priority areas. Additional information on the work completed by the advisory council, as well as emerging themes that were discussed, can be found on the district’s website at www.cusd.claremont.edu. 

In January, the board reviewed the district’s vision, mission, core values and strategic goals, made minor revisions to the core values and asked for input in revising the student achievement strategic goal, which was aligned to the California Standards Test. The LCAP Advisory Council drafted a revised strategic goal on student achievement and provided it to the board in February. After board review, a new student achievement goal and the five original strategic goals were adopted and extended through June 2016. 

Professional development continues to be an area of focus. In November, a student free day was provided for the first time in many years so that all district staff could receive training on our transition to the Common Core State Standards. Additional trainings have been held throughout the year, which have included developing new units of study that align with the Common Core standards.

CUSD entered into escrow on property located on Base Line Road, which was the site of our service center for many years. The property was sold to DR Horton, who purchased the old district office site adjacent to this property. Escrow is expected to close in the summer of 2014. A new service center is under construction at our current district office site and should be completed by June. 

Our schools and district continued to receive many awards this year. Congratulations are extended to Condit Elementary School for being named a California Distinguished School. Schools selected for the California Distinguished School award are realizing high academic achievement and educational excellence for all students. 

Throughout this year, Chaparral, Oakmont and Vista del Valle Elementary Schools participated in the Grades of Green Trash Free Lunch Challenge. The annual challenge is a competition between Los Angeles county schools to see which schools experience the greatest reduction in lunchtime trash. Students are taught how to bring trash free lunches, and kids who buy lunches sort waste into recyclables, compost, liquid and landfill.

Over the past two years, participating schools have decreased lunchtime trash by an average of 70 percent with the winning schools reducing trash by over 90 percent. Out of a field of 24 county schools participating in the challenge this year, Vista del Valle took first place and received the grand prize of a $1,000 education grant.

Over spring break, the Claremont High School Chamber Singers traveled to Washington DC to participate in the Festival of Gold Choir Competition. The choir not only took the top spot in their category, but were also named as the top overall scoring choir of the entire festival, making CHS one of the top choir programs in the country. Our students were excellent ambassadors of our school district, community and state. 

Congratulations are also in order for Chaparral, Condit, Mountain View, Oakmont, Sycamore and Vista del Valle Elementary Schools, and El Roble Intermediate School for being named 2013 California Business for Education Excellence Honor Roll Schools.

Schools receiving this distinction from the California business community have consistently demonstrated high levels of student academic achievement and a reduction in the achievement gaps among student populations. The CBEE Honor Roll is comprised of Star Schools and Scholar Schools.

CBEE Star Schools are those with significant populations of socioeconomically disadvantaged students that have shown a significant increase in grade-level proficiency over time. Mountain View, Oakmont, Vista and El Roble were all honored as Star Schools.

CBEE Scholar Schools show significant levels of academic achievement, but do not have a significant socioeconomically disadvantaged student population. Chaparral, Condit and Sycamore were honored as Scholar Schools. This honor recognizes the hard work of all of our teachers, support staff, parents, administrators, and community partners, ensuring that students are meeting our high expectations, and that student learning and achievement is the focus of our efforts.

The Education Trust-West (ETW) recently released their fourth annual Report Card, ranking California’s largest school districts on academic and college readiness outcomes for Latino, African American and socioeconomically disadvantaged students. Among the 149 districts that received rankings in 2013, Claremont Unified School District tied for third place. CUSD has advanced from 48th to third over the last four years by improving the performance of our socioeconomically disadvantaged students and narrowing the achievement gap in academic performance between African American and white students. 

Districts are graded on academic performance, academic improvement over five years, the size of achievement gaps and college readiness. Grades on these four indicators are combined into a single overall grade. CUSD earned an overall grade of a “B,” the highest grade earned by any district in California. 

It is a privilege to work in the Claremont Unified School District where staff, students, parents, community partners and the board continue to work collaboratively to ensure our students receive a rigorous and well-rounded education. On behalf of the board of education, I thank you for your role in supporting our students.


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