Trustees discuss Winters graduate profile

Trustee Everardo Zaragoza and President Carrie Green work to organize post-it notes of skills they’d like to see Winters graduates have upon exiting the school district. (Crystal Apilado/Winters Express)

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On April 20, the Winters Joint Unified School District Trustees gathered for a Trustee Study Session with Superintendent Rody Boonchouy and Assistant Superintendent Phoebe Girimonte where they discussed the “graduate profile” of Winters students, and how the school district can prepare its students for a world and job market set to only increase in its complexity and its speed. 

The purpose of the session was to help the Trustees clarify both for themselves and for the district as a whole what the goals of the school district are for its graduates, and what skills and competencies they wish for Winters JUSD graduates to possess when they leave at the high school level. To do this, Trustees worked with Boonchouy and Girimonte to create a first draft that will serve as the school district’s “north star” in the words of Boonchouy. 

Boonchouy began the session with a deceptively simple question, asking the trustees, “What is the purpose of school?”

The Trustees provided a number of answers that built off one another. Trustee Everado Zaragoza said it is to bring out the potential and the interests of students. Trustee Joedy Michael described the importance of gaining knowledge of the world and how it works, as well as noting its key feature of being free and accessible to all people.

Board President Carrie Green said schools are meant to provide education, but that education itself is layered and can include both understanding of content as well as emotional intelligence and social skills. Trustee Kristen Trott succinctly described the purpose of schools to be shaping their students to be successful, thoughtful, and productive. Trustee Sterling Davis closed by saying it is to educate “the whole child” to successfully participate in our society and workforce.

Boonchouy noted that all these answers are correct, but also goes to show that schools are responsible for an immense amount in regards to their students, and asked trustees, “How do we do everything that’s high stakes
really well?” 

Boonchouy clarified that the goal of not just this session but of the entire school district leadership is to make sure its efforts, plans and priorities are “not spinning its wheels in different directions” and to “build coherence so efforts all go in the same direction,  are specific and all point in the same direction” ensuring all the different elements of a Winters JUSD student’s education are met. 

The next portion of the session was discussing the history of education in the US, including its roots in the desire for business and factory owners in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to have a workforce with a basic education designed around lower-skill industrial jobs, a system of basics that hasn’t fundamentally changed in the intervening century. 

Instead, Boonchouy encouraged the trustees to think of the new world Winters JUSD students are going into, with technological, economic, and social changes happening at such a rapid pace that the skills a modern graduate needs are no longer compatible with this older style of education. 

The first places Boonchouy pointed to were surveys from what major business employers and organizations in Winters say they are looking for in their employees, which includes subject competencies but also things like business fundamentals, problem-solving, collaboration, initiative, and punctuality, which show the broader array of areas students must be shaped in school. 

Boonchouy concluded the session by acknowledging that COVID had a deleterious effect on all of education, but that the next school year may be the perfect opportunity for renewing and refining the efforts of educators to not just meet old goals but to set new ones for a new era of a more complete education, as well as a promise that the school district was going to take the brainstorming provided during this rough draft and refine it into a coherent set of goals that will allow Winters JUSD to achieve its goals and reward the hard work of its staff and its students.

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