EMCSD Students Get Brought to the Planning Table
By: Annabel Ruiz and Brittney Ornelas
El Monte City School District (EMCSD) has been focusing on finding the best ways to increase student learning and success through their Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). Over the last few months, they have been meeting with different stakeholders to provide in-depth feedback to their educational goals, and last week they invited the most important stakeholder to the table, students.
The LCAP is a comprehensive strategic plan that allows school districts to provide equitable access to a variety of students with the goal of educating the whole child. “Your input is the most important aspect of all the research that goes into developing our funding plan here at EMCSD,” said Superintendent Dr. Maribel Garcia in her opening remarks to her Student Advisory Council. “Our job is to provide the best education, resources, and programming possible for you and your peers; that’s why we have invited you to be part of this vital conversation as we plan for the future.”
EMCSD’s Superintendent Student Advisory Council is the second group of students at EMCSD to ever be invited into LCAP discussions. Students were first introduced to funding discussions last Spring, providing valuable perspective into where the district should focus their resourcing efforts. This year, Dr. Garcia launched her Advisory Council program in order to get honest feedback on the district services from their main customer. “If our goal is to be the best possible school district for our students, we need to know what’s working, what can be improved, and how we can achieve that. This is only possible if we actively listen to our students and create the programming they want and need,” explained Garcia.
All 14 schools had a representative present and they were able to voice their opinions in focus groups discussing EMCSD goals and how they can provide resources that lead to student success. The council was tasked with providing suggestions based on the four LCAP goals: Increasing Student Achievement; Ensuring Learner Engagement; Increasing Parent & Family Engagement; and Maintaining Foundational Supports.
Students did not disappoint and developed a multitude of suggestions that ranged from parent empowerment opportunities to proactive social and environmental justice activities that are taught and led by students. “I really enjoyed this because they are not getting opinions from just the teachers or people from the district, they’re getting our opinions and I think that is really important,” said Cortada 6th Grader, Sophia. When asked about her biggest takeaway from the meeting, Sophia explained that she appreciated being asked about the details, from specific programs at school to how playgrounds should look and feel.
5th grader from New Lexington, Victoria, shared Sophia’s sentiments and appreciated the chance to be heard. “I think it’s a great opportunity for everyone because we are giving opinions that we think will make our schools even better.”
EMCSD’s Coordinator of Equity and Access Lauren McClearn helped orchestrate the LCAP activity alongside Director of Student Support Services Roberto Lopez-Mena. Ms. McClearn was thrilled to see how serious the students took this opportunity and how passionate they were about family integration. “They spent so much time thinking about how to better involve parents and incorporate culture into our action plans,” said McClearn. “They share our goals of trying to remove barriers for families and they gave us really insightful suggestions as to how we can achieve that.”
Students are always the number one priority in school districts, and EMCSD strongly believes that in order for that to be true, they need a seat at the table. McClearn thinks involving students in district planning is a no-brainer. “There’s no point in guessing what students want or need. We just need to ask them. That’s why we started incorporating students into the planning and why we will continue to do it.”