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State of the District: It's Getting Better All The Time

By Peter Day
A review of the 2018-19 school year shows the Lucerne Valley Unified School District is living up to its mission statement that students “will be prepared academically, socially, and ethically to become lifelong learners and responsible, productive citizens.”
That is the assessment of district Superintendent Peter Livingston who gave a “LVUSD District Update” during the May 9 school board meeting.
Citing the recent certification of the district’s AVID program, the construction of Budd Biggs STEM Lab last fall and ongoing programs such as the highly successful FFA program, Livingston said the school district is putting its mission statement into action by investing in programs and classes that help students learn and grow.
“As you can see there are a lot of positive initiatives going on,” Livingston said.
Indication of that, according to Livingston who shared his findings in a 46-slide PowerPoint report to board members, can be found in the district’s Dashboard Report, which provides an at-a-glance, colorful status indication to all state public schools and districts. Dashboard indicators range from red (significantly below standard) to blue (above). While not all Dashboard indicators are where Livingston would like them to be, improvements are clearly evident.
The superintendent warned that the Dashboard system, which was implemented in 2017, can be misleading, especially to small school districts where a change for the better or worse in just a few students can cause significant changes to the results.
“You can quickly go one way or the other really quickly depending on just three to five students.”
Livingston explained that the state had 374 local education agencies eligible to receive differentiated assistance last year. Differentiated assistance is individually designed assistance to address performance issues such as a high suspension rate, low testing scores and several other indicators. The majority, 239 LEAs, received assistance. Of those, 139 maintained assistance from the previous year, but 93 exited. The Lucerne Valley Unified School District was one of those to no longer need differentiated assistance.
“That’s something to be celebrated,” Livingston said.
Another indication of district improvement is rising student enrollment, which in April was 769 students.
“We’re up over 100 students in three years,” Livingston said. “That’s because of the dedication of our staff, embracing the programs we are implementing, the school board giving us the freedom to do it and just making it happen as we seek to continually improve.”
The elementary school also continues to make noticeable academic progress. For instance, at the start of the school year 60% of LVES students performed below grade level in certain areas. Currently, only 35% are below. There are several reason for the improvements. Intervention programs include after school tutoring, the hiring of an intervention teacher to focus on students needing more help, and the implementation of Multi-Tiered Systems of Support.
Other improvements at district schools:
• A summer school session at the high school for approximately 40 students.
• An additional four days of professional development for teachers in multiple content areas.
• Continuing training and implementation of recent textbook adoptions at the elementary school and researching options at the middle/high school.
• One-to-one Chromebook initiative at Middle/High School for 2019-20. 

The school district is investing in outstanding educators and staff. This past year, 12 new teachers were hired. “A lot of really good staff came on board,” he said.
Livingston credited the new administration team at the Middle High School headed by Principal Nate Lambdin and Assistant Principal Kelly Boeing for making a tremendous difference.
In a relatively short time, the district’s AVID program, which is headed by middle school teacher Naomi Oyadomari, has made a tremendous impact on the middle and high school where the entire instructional staff utilizes AVID strategies. Recently the program was officially certified.
“We’re hitting it out of the park,” Livingston said of the district’s AVID program.
A great source of pride for Livingston and Lucerne Valley community members is the Lucerne Valley FFA program, which is now in its 25th year.
“One of the amazing things about a program that’s built for success is when you can pull the person out of it (FFA advisor Troy Van Bavel) that built it and it continues on.”
That epiphany comes months after Van Bavel tore his achilles tendon, which laid him up for the last few months. Despite Van Bavel’s absence, the FFA program continues in spectacular fashion with assistant advisor Danielle Hickman taking the reins.
“This program has continued on,” Livingston said. “That’s true leadership. The impact this program makes on small districts is tremendous.”
In describing FFA students, the superintendent said, “They shake your hand, look you in the eye.”
Other school district highlights:
• Expansion of Middle School Sports. “We need to get these kids engaged,” he said. The after school sports program keeps kids busy while helping build the sports program for high school. “We have great coaches dedicating their time to kids for nominal pay.”
• Hands On Project Based Learning. The district is providing hands-on, project based learning such as the STEM Day event for middle schools.
• Music Program. Livingston credited new music teacher Amy James for resurrecting the program started several years ago after it was identified as a community desire in an LCAP survey. “The has really taken ownership. She’s brought a new passion to the program.”
• Staff Development. District staff members are receiving ample training, including training in Thinking Maps, Core Curriculum, AVID and Next Gen Math.
• Drama Club. The LVES Drama Club, now under the direction of teacher Chris Pennington and parent LeeAnn Lambert, continues to present family-friendly productions. Recently, the club performed “Peter Pan,” and last December it presented “The North Pole’s Got Talent!”
• MCCEF Partnership. This past year the Mitsubishi Cement Corporation Education Foundation increased its scholarships and mini grants for district teachers. Additionally, the annual Ride in the Rocks bicycle event grew and raised $25,000 for the 5th grade science camp trip.
• Bud Biggs STEM Lab. On Sept. 6, 2018 the Bud Biggs STEM Lab at the elementary school was dedicated. Numerous local, regional and state dignitaries were on hand for the presentation. The lab followed the late plant manager’s vision, which he presented a decade ago. “We wanted to do something to honor him. It was an amazing event.”
• Destination Imagination. Started several years ago, the Lucerne Valley Destination Imagination has grown and experienced greater success than previous years. This past school year, three of four teams qualified for state competition.
• Multi-Tiered Systems of Support Initiative. District wide professional development with Dr. Kiti Randall on “Changing the Trajectory of Students” is making a difference.
• Essay Competitions. Students are competing in various essay contests including the VFW Essay Contest.
• CTE Expansion. Formerly called “R.O.P.,” the C.T.E. program continues to provide career training through programs and competitions.
• Safety Enhancements. This year at all sites all doors have had interior locks installed. The updated Raptor System now accepts new state issued I.D. cards. Buzzer systems have been installed and surveillance cameras are in certain areas.
• Solar Projects Completed. All three sites have completed fully district funded solar systems.
• Charter School Oversight. The LVUSD provides oversight for Alta Vista Innovation High School and Sky Mountain Charter. Altogether more than 3,000 students are receiving education from the schools. “We have the belief that not all students are best served in a one box system. Some kids need a home school program. Some kids need an independent study program…. We have a strong belief in charter schools.”
While there have been many improvements over the past year, more are coming, according to Livingston. Among the upcoming plans are a family engagement initiative, one-to-one ChromeBook rollout, a CTE articulation completion which will get high school students college units, all agriculture classes are now A-G elective qualified, a health pathway will be introduced at the high school, a Cadet Corp. program will be introduced at the Middle High School.
“We’re going to give our kids another opportunity to experience success,” Livingston said.

Peter Day currently is a social media advisor for the Lucerne Valley Unified School District.