Grand Jury commends Court Schools
A message from Larry E. Reider, Kern County Superintendent of Schools
I am pleased to report that the Kern County Grand Jury has praised the staff commitment and student progress achieved by our Court Schools program, operated by the Division of Student Services. The Court Schools program provides education to students who are incarcerated or attend court-ordered instruction in lieu of incarceration.
Specifically the grand jury report lauds:
- Central School -- which provides education to youth incarcerated
in Juvenile Hall. This office has provided instruction since 1972. Instruction
focuses on small class sizes to facilitate learning. Unfortunately, many students
who end up in juvenile hall, also have serious academic issues. Central School
staff work to correct these deficiencies.
- Redwood High School -- which houses up to 120 juvenile
offenders within the Larry J. Rhoades Juvenile Treatment Facility located
near Lerdo Highway. Students receive an intense educational program. Work
is under way to add vocational or career education to provide these students
with skills that increase their opportunities for employment.
- Camp Erwin Owen -- which is located in Kernville and also
provides instruction during a juvenile's confinement for up to six months.
In addition, to instruction in the core subjects, students are served by a
computer lab and auto shop. In recent years, auto shop students built 16 race
cars that were used for many years in the "911 Racing Series" in partnership
with the Collins family, former owners of Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield.
Many of our staff raced these cars.
- Jamison Center School -- which provides instruction to
students in this short term residential facility. Many children are taken
to Jamison from homes where neglect or abuse takes place. Our staff provides
instruction until these students are situated in a more permanent residential
- Sandstone Academy -- which serves court ordered wards, juveniles with a history of poor school attendance and performance, or minors who may better benefit from non-residential instruction rather than confinement. The Sandstone Academy is located within the Kelly F. Blanton Student Foundation Education Center on Truxtun Avenue in Bakersfield.
All our court school programs are operated in concert with the Kern County Probation Department. We consider county probation an excellent partner and work together to direct these youth toward positive actions and conduct.
During our average school year, court school programs serve almost 3,500 students.
The grand jury notes that our programs for these at-risk students earned accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Very few programs directed at these at-risk students have this accreditation.
Among the positive comments contained in the grand jury report is this:
"The education team (teachers, instructional aides and support staff) have a passionate commitment to the student population... The opinion of the (grand jury) committee is that there is no better teaching team in California than the team found in the Juvenile Court school."
Sometimes, I'm asked why we devote resources to teach at-risk students, who often come to us after run-ins with the law because of behavior and academic failure.
My response always is that it's far better for these youth to be in school than left to themselves on the streets. One need only look at our prison population to see how many inmates lack a sound education and solid literacy skills. Anything we can do to turnaround these students and provide a first, second or even third chance is far preferable to relegating them to a life of ignorance with no options for success.
I always have been proud of the work accomplished in all our educational programs. To see the grand jury publicly recognize your work with at-risk student population only adds to the pride I have for all who work in this office on behalf of our students.
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