Spring Reinvigorates the Activist Trustee.


Email Sandra Nichols

  "My school visits have continued to support my impression of our schools as worthy of considerable pride and respect. Our schools are like a smorgasbord table with something for everyone, depending on your taste and needs."


ere it is, March again! And spring has come early to the Pajaro Valley and the rest of Monterey Bay.

What's that I see springing up on the land between Harkins Slough and the West Branch of the Struve Slough? It's the brand new Pajaro Valley High School taking root. And doesn't it look great!

A couple of months ago I wrote that I had made a personal commitment to visit every one of our local public schools this year. This has been a wonderful experience. I have visited 24 schools so far. I plan to have no school left unvisited (NSLU)!

So I went for a visit to Pajaro Valley High School. There are no students out there yet. They'll be there next January. Right now it is the land of hardhats. And so, I put one on.

I was shown around very courteously by Gary, the construction boss. Two of the buildings are approaching completion. They are the face of the school, the library and the administration buildings. Both are emerging as attractive buildings with pitched roofs.

Looking into the heart of the school, you see the spacious quad area, which is like an interior courtyard. This area is grand. The view is marvelous. You can easily visualize the students there with books and friends, chatting and reading. There is already an atmosphere at this scene of future learning and memory-making experiences. It is an atmosphere that combines a cozy feel with expansiveness.

On either side, the two-story classroom buildings are well underway, as is the gymnasium, which forms the fourth side of the square. The cafeteria, which is one of our local school bond projects, will be last to spring forth, to the right of the administration building.

I have grown to be very excited about this project, which involves so much more than just buildings. Parent meetings are also "under construction." New groups are forming. Assistant Superintendent Catherine Hatch has brought together a network of support and planning to ready the school for its new student body. These students will be the class of 2008, the first class to graduate from PVHS, consisting of about 600 students who will be freshman next year. Ms. Hatch invites families to be a part of the planning process.

If you wish to visit Pajaro Valley High School, call Catherine Hatch at 786-2125. She is planning a Hardhat Tour of the school for later in the spring.

My other school visits have continued to support my impression of our schools as worthy of considerable pride and respect. Our schools are like a smorgasbord table with something for everyone, depending on your taste and needs.

I have just returned from sampling the goods at Watsonville Charter School of the Arts. The flavor of success and inclusiveness permeates the atmosphere at this school. One boy reported, "No one is left out."

In a fifth and sixth grade combination class the students sang so beautifully that I wondered whether students were selected according to their musical talent. This group reminded me of Robert Earl Keen song lyrics, "singin' like they thought they were the Tabernacle choir." They sang a cappella, in three-part harmony. Their song filled the room with the clear, lovely voices of childhood. And the teacher reported there are no "try outs." Everyone sings.

You can hear the WCSA Children's Choir, which will start off a benefit concert tonight at the Mello Center at 7:30 PM. The main event is "La Pena Community Chorus" which will perform "songs of justice, peace, and hope."

This week I also visited Pacific Coast Charter School, which brings home-schooled children into the classroom for special lessons and activities, while providing resources and guidance in their studies. At the Academic Vocational Charter Institute, I watched high school students learn valuable lessons in economics.

At Watsonville-Aptos Adult School I watched the CBET program. I have come to view CBET as the golden lining of the cloud which was Proposition 227. Parents and community members are learning to speak English well enough to support their children's efforts to learn English. Our adult school, which has been proclaimed "one of the best ever seen," is truly a stunning example of PVUSD's outstanding offerings to this community.

One final note about springtime. Spring is test-taking time for our students. Please make sure your children get the rest they need during these upcoming weeks. My mother used to feed me special test-day breakfasts she called "brain food." The best brain food of all is that special can-do attitude, that "si se puede" feeling, that we must foster in our children.

Sandra Nichols is past president of the Pajaro Valley Unified School District Governing Board serving 19,000 students in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties. She is a Speech and Language Specialist with Santa Cruz City Schools, and was recently appointed by the Board of Supervisors to the Santa Cruz County Children and Youth Commission. The opinions expressed are those of Sandra Nichols and do not necessarily represent those of any school district, print publication or web site.

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© Sandra Nichols 2004