Top Education Official Praises Partnership in Support of Castle Park

Cheered like a rock star, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wrapped up his 2013 back-to-school bus tour—“Strong Start, Bright Future”—with a Sept. 13 visit to Chula Vista. Secretary Duncan took part in a festive pep rally at Castle Park Middle, which included about 175 students from nearby Castle Park Elementary. The Secretary then met with parents, education leaders, and community members for a “town hall” discussion.

CVESD Superintendent Francisco Escobedo, Ed.D., kicked off the Town Hall session by noting the work of Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood, led by South Bay Community Services, that involves two school districts, and 28 diverse organizations and interests.

“There is a parallel here with the vision of one of my heroes, one of our founding fathers—Benjamin Franklin,” said Dr. Escobedo. “Benjamin Franklin organized a group initially composed of 12 members, and that called itself the Junto. In Spanish, Junto means ‘together.’ The members of the Junto were drawn from diverse occupations and backgrounds, but they all shared a spirit of inquiry and a desire to improve themselves, their community, and to help others.

“Together, or Juntos, we in the Promise Neighborhood program are focused on strengthening community, especially education, health and the family.”

During a question and answer session, Secretary Duncan delicately addressed the subject of penalizing California if the Governor signs into law an overhaul of the state’s standardized testing system. The proposed state legislation would suspend the public release of test scores for up to two years while schools acclimate a new assessment method, part of the movement to the new Common Core State Standards. What are the new standards about? Click here.

Last year, Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood received a Promise Neighborhood grant from the Department of Education totaling nearly $5 million for the first year of a five-year grant. Five schools, including Castle Park Elementary, Middle and High School, are located within the CVPN. More than half of the students in the CVPN area receive free or reduced lunch and are English language learners. CVPN has developed an implementation plan for a seamless continuum of cradle-to-career solutions that will provide all children with high expectations for success, steady and nurturing relationships throughout the pipeline, and a clear and viable pathway to college and career success.

“Tough problems, like turning around persistently low-performing schools, require collaborative, comprehensive solutions that challenge the status quo head on,” Duncan said. “There is nothing simple about this work. Tough challenges force people out of their traditional silos and push them beyond their comfort zones. That takes courage—and a commitment to doing what is right, not what is easy.

“In the end, it takes a community to provide a well-rounded, world-class education. It takes outstanding principals, great teachers, high-quality preschool, after-school tutoring, arts, and sports programs, affordable health care providers, and accessible community recreation centers. It takes committed parents, business, non-profit, and faith-based leaders all working together on behalf of children.”

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