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February 21, 2020

Soledad High School to gain three classrooms as district plans repairs

SOLEDAD — Soledad High School is on track to get three new modular classrooms after a decision by the Soledad Unified School District board during its Jan. 8 meeting.

The passed motion called for piggybacking a purchase contract with the Willow Unified School District in the city of Chico.

“They’re starting to run out of room,” said Superintendent Timothy Vanoli of the student population at SHS, which is currently more than 1,400 students. “It’s time to add some classrooms to give them some relief. Over the next few months, we’ll get that in place and we’ll have it ready for August when they come back.”

The board also approved the School Accountability Report Cards for all district campuses after a Williams Inspection review by the county office of education. Pinnacles High School and Main Street Middle School both received overall Exemplary ratings, while Good overall ratings were issued to Soledad High School and the five elementary schools, Frank Ledesma, San Vicente, Rose Ferrero, Jack Franscioni and Gabilan.

While all campuses earned a Good rating in a majority of the inspection categories, two campuses earned a lower rating in one field each. Frank Ledesma Elementary School received a Poor rating for the repair status of interior surfaces, with numerous instances of chipped paint or wavy carpets as listed as in need of repair. Soledad High School received a Fair rating in the same interior surfaces field, also with multiple instances of chipped paint and wavy carpets.

“We’ve always met all their criteria, and aside from that we always want better facilities,” Vanoli said. “We have a painter and work orders for painting and we keep our painter busy.”

Vanoli explained repairs that would otherwise disrupt a classroom, such as installing new carpets, require waiting for the summer and winter breaks. He said maintenance staff is already in the planning process of figuring out a rotation for all campuses to get their needed repairs.

Board President Javier Galvan noted that while students get to enjoy time off during breaks, the district’s maintenance staff is busy during those times. They’re not only cleaning, but also replacing and repairing facilities to get them “ready for the students when they come back,” he said.

While the new Main Street Middle School campus was open at the end of July and ready for the first day of school, the field is still under construction. A dirt field will soon be basketball courts and a softball complex, Vanoli explained. Lawn seeding awaits the end of the winter cold.

Teacher staffing was another area reviewed by the SARC. Vanoli said having the district fully staffed has been the result of teacher retention.

“The first year I was here we hired 70 new teachers,” said Vanoli, who is currently in his third year with the district. “The second year, I think it was around 50, and this past August I think it was down to 34. We’ve cut it in half from when I got here.”

“That credit goes to Tim and his team that people want to be here,” Galvan said.

He went on to say, “It doesn’t matter how much you pay them. If they’re not happy, they’re not going to stay. Now some of our teachers, not only are they happy, they might not be paid what they can be paid somewhere else but they’re here because they’re happy.”

Galvan said he has heard teacher compliments about the new middle school campus. Not only do they appreciate the new classrooms and furniture, but some like the views from their windows.

“I know one teacher said the view she has is just awesome. She says it makes her a little bit happier and she looks forward to going to school,” he said. “That happy person is going to be a better teacher.”

In addition to teacher retention, Vanoli said including classified staff is part of their new strategy. On Jan. 6, all employees were gathered at the SHS gym for a welcome speech and kickoff for the year. Teachers then went to different development sessions, while classified staff went to job elect trainings.

“That’s saying we value you and are going to bring you in and support you with professional development,” Vanoli said.

“We encourage our classified employees to go to school and become teachers for us,” Galvan said. “They already have their foot in the door, and by doing what we do, they get to see what the teachers do and hopefully encourages them to take that leap.”

“Our slogan is ‘Every Student, Every Day,’ and we believe that nobody’s more important than anybody else,” Vanoli said. “It takes everybody in the organization. Everybody’s job is important and that’s what makes the system work.”

“One of the things I’m most proud of is the positive relationships that are in place now, especially between our school teacher’s association, the classified staff and our district. They weren’t always so positive,” Galvan said. “We’ve always had the same common goal, but right now we’re going forward together.”

Sean Roney
Sean Roney
Sean Roney is the reporter for King City Rustler, Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers education, government and general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.
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