“Four years ago when I first came to Hemet Unified School District (HUSD), we had the opportunity to have a very powerful conversation with an individual by the name of Dr. Carl Cohn,” began Dr. Christi Barrett, superintendent for HUSD at this year’s State of the District on Oct. 10.
Cohn, a professor at Claremont Graduate University and Barrett’s mentor, asked Barrett two very important questions: Is HUSD the default system and are you taking risk on behalf of children?
Barrett told the audience that the district was the default system and it was not taking risk on behalf of children.
“So that lit a fire under us and we started on a journey of taking risk, being willing to fail and to become the premier choice,” Barrett said.
Barrett also talked about “the premier choice not being a tagline” but being something that people within the organization can speak about. “We want to be the thing that brings people into our community because this is the space they want to live — raise their family — because they know they are going to leave better as a result of being involved,” said Barrett. It is an aspirational goal and something the district is striving to achieve.
The goal is to have every student college or career ready. “It is for us to give every child that we serve the ability to make any decision that they need to make or want to make in life in terms of what their adulthood looks like,” reminded Barrett. “Because for us, 12th grade isn’t the end-game. It’s the start and we need to prepare them.”
The district is making progress when it comes to graduation rates. In the 2014/15 school year, the dropout rate was 12% with a graduation rate of 81%. Last school year, the dropout rate was 6% with a graduation rate of 87%.
One of the places HUSD has invested money is into literacy intervention and it has expanded its program. It is now an intense 12-week program with a ratio of three students to one adult.
Music is at every school site, including elementary, and the district intends to expand the dual-language program so all students, kindergarten through twelfth grade, can participate.
Because the district has students in need of mental health services, the district has added full-time counselors to all elementary sites in addition to a director of counseling. Behavioral specialists and technicians are supporting students with disabilities in general and in special education environments.
The Parent Resource Center was relocated to Alessandro High School because that is the area with the greatest need.
Another exciting thing in the works for students: HUSD is working with Mt. San Jacinto College to have an early college program at one of the school sites.
Barrett announced that the International Baccalaureate (IB) program has officially accepted West Valley High School as a candidate. A press release issued by the district announced “staff will begin preparing the freshman class, which will be the first students to begin the IB program at West Valley.”
What is happening with Measure X, the bond measure passed in 2018 to upgrade and repair school facilities? Both Winchester and Little Lake Elementary will be getting a new classroom wing, security upgrades, and increased parking and drop off area. Winchester will also get a library and a new administration entry. The funds will also be used to replace existing exhaust and swamp cooler systems with air conditioning at two high school gymnasiums, Hemet and West Valley high schools, according to Barrett. Idyllwild School will get a revamp of the administration entrance.
Barrett said that the second round of funding is hopefully available after the beginning of the year and to watch for more changes.