By Christopher J. Steinhauser
Superintendent of Schools
As our schools head into the winter break, I want to thank everyone for a tremendous 2016. Our students and teachers have much to be proud of, and so does everyone who supports them. Parents, employees, our school board and our many community partners have worked especially hard this year to give our students the gift of a great education.
The challenges in our local public schools are great. About 70 percent of our students come from disadvantaged households, and nearly 20 percent are learning English as their second language. Yet we still must prepare students for an increasingly complex world. In the Long Beach Unified School District, we’re fortunate to be recognized nationally and even internationally for our efforts to meet such challenges.
Of course, there’s always more work to do. We need to bring our school facilities up to modern standards, and we must prepare more students for success in college and careers. We’re making significant progress in these areas, and our aim is to accelerate the pace of change.
Local voters have signaled their confidence in our school renovation and construction efforts, approving $1.5 billion in Measure E school bonds last month with a nearly 75 percent yes vote. We thank voters for choosing to invest in our schools, and we appreciate the trust they have placed in us. Intensive planning is now underway on an array of important health and safety repairs and upgrades. This week our staff publicly presented details to our school board regarding our proposed highest-priority, first phases of improvements including air conditioning systems and athletic facility upgrades. You’ll hear more about these evolving plans in the new year.
Meanwhile our efforts to prepare more students for college and careers are paying dividends for students and their families. For instance, students in our schools signed up for a record 13,252 Advanced Placement college-level exams in 2016, an 82.4 percent increase in just four years. We’ve made a concerted effort to provide extra tutoring and other support for AP and SAT exams, removing barriers by covering the cost of test fees and saving parents thousands of dollars by helping students to earn college credit while still in high school.
Voters here and statewide also validated the importance of public schools by approving Proposition 55, which will help to prevent the kind of devastating budget cuts to education that California experienced during the Great Recession. We’re hopeful we can use this opportunity to maintain and improve upon the support that we provide to students and their families.
No other institution does more to improve our community and quality of life than our local schools. It’s always heartening to see our community and voters reaffirm the high value they place on public education, and they did so resoundingly in 2016.
With deep appreciation for everyone’s support, I wish you a happy holiday season.