By SALLY S. BIMROSE
While the Close to Home opinion piece written by Mark Wardlaw (“Segregation exists in Santa Rosa schools,” Wednesday) presents some valid points about the realities of demographics and school enrollment within Santa Rosa, there are many other truths that were completely missed.
Highway 101 is sometimes described as the great divide within our city, but the high schools on the west side present as much “time for exploration (and) discovery” as any on the east side.
As principal of Piner High School, I cannot speak for all schools, but I can certainly speak for ours. The fact is, there are specialized, academically challenging programs at Piner High School that cannot be found elsewhere, and these are not restricted by No Child Left Behind. Also our STAR scores are on the rise. While all our English language arts results have increased, we are most proud of our 11th-grade scores, which have increased by 10 percent in two years. Math scores also rose, highlighted by advanced math, which increased by 15 percent in two years.
The representation of an either/or approach to education is a false one. Yes, Piner High School is currently under the guidelines of program improvement, and, yes, we also boast of rigorous academic programs that are uniquely ours.
The award-winning Early College Magnet Program provides opportunities for our students to earn as much as a year’s worth of college credit at Santa Rosa Junior College while they are still in high school. Although other high schools also allow their students to take courses at the junior college, only Piner has a four-year program that provides tuition, transportation and books free of charge. Students in the Early College Magnet Program save thousands of dollars in costs for post secondary education.
A second unique program at Piner is the Health Science Investigations Pathway. This three-course option offers any of our students science classes that rely on a project-based approach to learning, giving students hands-on experiences that prepare them for a variety of careers in the medical field. In fact, the capstone course provides internships for students to work within the medical community of Santa Rosa in real life situations. Judy Barcelon, the teacher for this course, just received recognition as the career-technical education teacher of the year for all of Sonoma County.
Another unique and experiential program at Piner is the Geo-Spatial Technology Pathway that has received accolades at a national level through publications such as American Surveyor and Technology Today. This program is linked with certificate and degree programs at Santa Rosa Junior College. Piner students experience cutting-edge advancements in geographic information systems technology using computers and survey equipment in authentic field experiences.
Wardlaw’s motives in writing his piece were well-intentioned, I am sure, but his information is limited. I welcome a visit from him and from any parent or community member who is eager to explore the wonderful variety of learning opportunities that provide “creativity and critical thinking” at Piner High School.
Sally S. Bimrose is principal at Piner High School in Santa Rosa.