October 11, 2008
Ravenswood on Track With Textbooks
By Banks Albach
The Ravenswood City School District made high marks for classroom instructional materials, but it needs to improve facilities on three of its campuses, according to a San Mateo County Office of Education audit.Known as the Williams Audit, counties are under state mandate to audit schools with low test scores within the first 20 days of the school year.
The mandate grew from a class-action lawsuit filed in 2000 by 100 students who complained they were not being provided with the same level of instruction as other schools and that their campuses were unsafe. The state, including the department of education, settled with the students in 2004.
Mefula Fairley, county instructional services coordinator, said she sent a team to analyze facilities and classroom materials at six campuses in Ravenswood: Cesar Chavez Academy, Green Oaks Academy, James Flood Magnet School and Belle Haven, Costano and Willow Oaks elementary schools. All of the schools passed the materials section, which requires that each classroom have at least one textbook per student.
Three campuses did miss the mark on the facilities audit but the problems can be easily remedied, Fairley said.
The team found that a double-door exit at Willow Oaks had a high step that could prove dangerous in a fast-moving emergency. At Flood, the inspectors marked the school down for a loose computer cabinet that had recently been taken off the wall for repairs. And both schools, along with Green Oaks, needed to install a hazardous materials cabinet in their janitor closets.
Any school that fails the initial inspections has 30 days to remedy the problem. Although district officials are happy with the results this year, it's almost a trade-off with last year. Fairley said no campuses failed the facilities section last year, but two campuses failed to meet the instruction materials requirement. She said the district passed on the second visit within 30 days.
Even so, minor facility problems are easier to fix than a lack of classroom materials, said Lisa Pruitt, interim assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. She said the district's recent success is a result of a tighter textbook inventory. Since she started three years ago, she said she's cut textbook costs from $200,000 to $30,000 per year, an 80 percent savings. Her department also recently installed new textbook- tracking software, which could help cut costs, she said.
Besides setting some statewide standards, the Eliezer Williams, et al., vs. State of California, et al. class-action suit also freed up $188 million in state funding for classroom materials and $800 million for critical office repairs in low-performing schools, according to the state education department's Web site. The lawsuit was filed in 2000 in San Francisco County Superior Court.
E-mail Banks Albach at email@example.com.
Originally published by Banks Albach, MediaNews.
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