The Riverbank City Council got a visit from Stanislaus County Superintendent of Schools Tom Changnon at its regular meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 23. It was part of a farewell tour, of sorts, since his name does not appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Changnon made a presentation to the council, but also addressed members of the audience in attendance, discussing the progress made in education in the county during his tenure in office.
He pointed out that, compared to the entirety of California, which has 10,223 schools, Stanislaus County has 187. Of those, 98 are elementary schools, 26 are middle school/junior highs. He said there are 20 high schools, 19 alternative schools, 22 charter schools and one special education school.
He discussed the progress made by educators in the county over the last few years, as well as what he expects to be happening soon. He said graduation rates in Stanislaus County schools have reached 84 percent for the 2016-17 school year through its ‘Destination Graduation’ program. That’s up from 78.7 percent in the 2012-13 school year.
He pointed out one of the worries educators have been facing. The superintendent said it is delineated in the book “The Coming Jobs War” by Jim Clifton.
There is a concern for local education, he said, as is pointed out in the book.
Changnon believes the future holds the prospect that there will be fewer well-paid, low-skilled jobs. He warned “that the global economy will demand that students today must be able to compete for jobs against students from all over the world.”
“There’s an achievement gap looming,” he said, adding that the economy will “demand more problem solvers, innovators and higher-level thinkers, with strong communication skills.”
To help with these coming worries by providing added programs, he said the Stanislaus County Office of Education has purchased the former Modesto Bee building on H Street in downtown Modesto.
He described a couple of Destination Graduation programs that are housed there.
Volt Institute hosted an Industrial Maintenance Mechanics class, the first, that ran from October 2017 to June of this year. He said it had 30 graduates with a 90 percent job placement rate.
It also includes the Northern California Construction Training program. Of the 153 students enrolled, he said, 76 have already graduated.
He said it is necessary to give graduating students either a “solid footing for the working world or strong guidance toward college, at a time when many fear graduation means tumbling into an economic black hole.”
Candidates running for the Superintendent’s office in next week’s election are Shannon Sanford and Scott Kuykendall.
Sanford is a district superintendent while Kuykendall is currently Assistant Superintendent of Schools in Stanislaus County.
Superintendent Tom Changnon was elected Stanislaus County Superintendent of Schools in November, 2006 and sworn into office on Jan. 9, 2007. As Superintendent, he oversees the Stanislaus County Office of Education (SCOE) with a staff of 940 and a budget of over $227 million.