Thursday, April 26 , 2018, 11:30 pm | Fair 55º

 
 
 
 

Santa Barbara Schools Superintendent Talks About Preparing Students for a Changing World

Cary Matsuoka speaks at Santa Barbara Education Foundation's State of Our Schools event at The New Vic

Santa Barbara Unified Superintendent Cary Matsuoka speaks to a large crowd during the State of Our Schools event at The New Vic Wednesday morning. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara Unified Superintendent Cary Matsuoka speaks to a large crowd during the State of Our Schools event at The New Vic Wednesday morning. (Giana Magnoli)

Santa Barbara schools need to prepare their students for a “life of constant redesign” in a changing world, district Superintendent Cary Matsuoka told a crowd Wednesday at the State of Our Schools event at The New Vic.

Matsuoka was hired to lead the Santa Barbara Unified School District in June 2016, taking over for retiring leader Dave Cash.

His wife, Polly, is a Dos Pueblos High School alumna, and Matsuoka came to the district with more than a decade of experience at Bay Area school districts.

Matsuoka talked a lot about change, for the way teachers teach and the way students learn.

Teachers are working to implement Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and the move to personalized learning instead of a straight “stand and deliver” approach.

Today’s work is about information and technology, and the demand for literacy is higher than ever, he said. New standards prioritize reading and understanding text, so students will learn how to learn – even after they leave school.

Schools have a mission of getting students ready for college and career, but even that needs some adapting, Matsuoka said. Younger students in particular need to learn creativity and skills that can be adapted for a career that’s not even invented yet.

If students are prepared for a career, it could be disrupted by the time they join the work force, he said.

Matsuoka also talked about demographics for the district, which is moving into a basic-aid funding model, also known as local community-funded.

Sixty percent of the district's students are Latino, 34 percent are white, 3 percent are Asian, 1 percent are African American, and 2 percent are described as other.

About half of the students are English learners, and 25 percent (3,569 students) were not proficient as of the 2016-17 year.

Matsuoka asked the dozens of people gathered in the audience to imagine moving to a new country and trying to learn a subject in the native language – maybe learning history in Spanish, or chemistry in Japanese.

Half of the district students qualify for free or reduced meals, and 14.3 percent of children are designated as homeless, which means they live on the streets, in a car, in a hotel/motel, or with multiple families under one (small) roof, Matsuoka said.

He said the community and financial support for schools is second-to-none in Santa Barbara, with partnerships, philanthropy and approving bond measure.

“A school district really is an expression of the core values of a community,” he said.

He answered a few questions from the audience at the end.

People were not happy about last week’s heat wave and while new buildings will include air conditioning, the cost to put it in all classrooms would be “astronomical,” he said.

The district is looking into options for air conditioning some larger, common areas at each campus — maybe libraries — and classrooms in the high schools, he said.

Someone also asked about the status of the much-anticipated National Guard Armory property purchase. 

The district is in talks with the state Department of General Services and National Guard to buy it, but it’s not in escrow yet, Matsuoka said.

The 4.7-acre site at 700 E. Canon Perdido St. is situated between Santa Barbara Junior High and Santa Barbara High School.

There isn’t an official plan for the space yet, but he mentioned a field for the nearby schools to use, and a career technical program in partnership with Santa Barbara City College.

This year’s State of Our Schools event was hosted by the Santa Barbara Education Foundation at The New Vic. 

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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