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GUEST OPINION: No either/or education at Piner High


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.

Saaly S. Bimrose is principal of Piner High School in Santa Rosa.

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.

4 Responses to “GUEST OPINION: No either/or education at Piner High”

  1. Commonsense says:

    While I appreciate your opinion, I guess we will have to agree to disagree on this issue. P.S. The in-laws came here as children, thus learned english as children. The use of which was intended to be an example. And In my opinion, we divide our nation either socially or economically by our own conduct, votes and attitude.

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  2. Shirley Durban says:

    With the data provided and the inferences made from an in-laws’ adult experience, apparently before the NCLB sanctions and the failing institutional management, there is the suggestion of a behavioral norm for a culture. This adds a case to my point.

    The data you and Mr. Golis cite begin to hint at the enormity of the problem. The cure is not to extrapolate from one’s belief aimed at families of a particular culture, nor to ‘show and tell’, nor to punish the students’ teachers, aides or parents with the scripted, narrow, separate curriculum and constant testing that NCLB/RTTT prescribes. This is not common sense. This policy and its adventitious administrators continue to widen the divides of our nation socially and economically.

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  3. Commonsense says:

    Ms. Durban,
    Per your quote, I’m assuming you read the prior opinion article by Mr. Golis, which indicates that the latest figures from the Sonoma County Office of Education show that about 77 percent of Sonoma County students (and only 67 percent of Latino students) finish high school. Which means that there is a 23% drop out rate overall and for Latino’s within that rate, it’s 33%. While I agree that number is too high. I must part ways with you on the blame you appear to place at the institution of public education.
    You have not factored in the effect of culture and family. My in-laws weren’t native speakers, but they learned english quickly, as it was a priority for them and their family, as was education. However, I’ve known many families with different priorities and you can try and teach until your are blue in the face, but it won’t work if they don’t want to learn. We live in a very diversified area and country. I’ve seldom seen or felt that race was ever an issue in my schools or any school I’ve been in contact with. While race is an easy way for some to be critical and/or point fingers, I find its often a red herring (distraction from the real substance of an issue).
    I found Ms. Brimrose to at least be honest about her situation, and developing positive changes and ideas for a broken system overall. Given we spend close to 80% of the states revenues on education and health and human services, it’s not a lack of spending, but a lack of spending wisely and effectively, which it looks like Ms. Brimrose is trying to do at Piner.

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  4. Shirley Durban says:

    Mr. Wardlaw’s piece was a very thoughtful and accurate piece of journalism. It spoke from, not an institutional administrative view, but a public, student and teacher view. If this response from Ms. Bimrose is supposed to correct, as she asserts, her views of limitations on Mr. Wardlaw’s opinion, then there is, indeed, a failure to communicate.

    Ms. Bimrose’s piece white washes the real segregation issue in SR altogether. This re-emergent social ill, primarily on the basis of language, is a direct result of NCLB and institutional administrators falling lock-step into the wallows of narrow directives-as-punishments, set forth in NCLB/RTTT.

    It is a socially engineered tragedy no worse than we have fought civil and foreign wars over that deserves recognition from managers, like Ms. Bimrose, who enforce and again perpetuate the sorry condition. For instance, in her claimant airing of her institutional ego, Ms. Bimrose neglects to discuss dropout rates of english learners vs. ‘native’ english speakers.
    How have we fared? How have we fared in the junior highs over the past 10 years of this debacle. In this era of data, it is no wonder that this longitudinal information has been troublesome for many administrators to find and report on, unlike many commentators, educators and social workers.

    She also chooses to not look deeper into the elementary and middle school segregation that leads into what the high schools inherit. This is not limited to SR but nearly every District and school in Sonoma County, the state and nation.

    I hope that Ms. Bimrose can, rather than obfuscate, find the boldness, resources and honesty to educate the public as to the holes and shadows from which many of our youth, white and non-white, need to escape, that were created by this ‘failed’ legislation.

    The smoke hasn’t cleared enough from the Spellings/Bush/Duncan era to take on more. Thank you, Mr. Wardlaw, and our youth and families who have had the enduring strength and resiliency to endure such a backwards law and institution.

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