Welcome to the 2020-2021 school year. It is a pleasure and a privilege to be part of the Gilroy Unified School District team for my fourteenth year as Superintendent. Given the current circumstances of school operations in Santa Clara County, this year continues to be the most challenging school year I've ever been a part of. Given the worldwide pandemic, we have transitioned our learning models to be completely online to open the school year. I am proud of our teachers, staff, and principals for their efforts to tackle this monumental task of moving all of our staff and students to a 100% digital platform to open the school year. Our more than 1,100 employees remain deeply committed to maintaining the rigor and quality of our in-person educational programs while online so that students can achieve at the highest possible levels academically.
State and local test results continue to indicate that we are moving in the right direction as a District. After eight years of consistent District-wide gains in proficiency on the Academic Performance Index (API), our students began using a testing tool five years ago called the California Assessment of Student Performance (CAASPP). In the five years since the implementation of the CAASPP program, GUSD students have outperformed their statewide peers in mathematics while being nearly equal to them in English Language Arts.
The GUSD graduation rate for the 2018-19 cohort was 90.3%, as compared to the statewide rate of 88.1% and the rate in Santa Clara County of 90.1%, an increase of more than five percentage points in a six-year period. The GUSD dropout rate for 2018-19 cohort was 4.7 percent, in comparison to the statewide rate of 6.5%, and 5.7% in Santa Clara County. This is a 5% decline in a six-year period and demonstrates that our efforts to ensure that students are engaged and actively participating in school have been successful and have resulted in both positive gains in our graduation rates and a significant decline in dropout rates.
The many successes at GUSD are the result of district initiatives that are targeted towards achieving the goals that have been defined by the Board of Education and the district’s Local Control Accountability Plan, or LCAP. One of the main goals of GUSD is to provide high quality instruction and 21st century learning opportunities to ensure college & career readiness for all students. Staff development days have focused on teaching new practices and strategies to all teachers to support the different needs of students and ensure that students have the skills necessary to be competitive in the workforce. This year, an additional focus of professional development will be on social and emotional learning of students, as well as helping students remain connected to their school communities while learning online. At all three levels (elementary, middle and high), Academic Coaches and Instructional Specialists have supported teachers through modeling, coaching and curriculum development at each of our school sites.
The District continues to update instructional materials in all core content areas. We are fortunate to have strong teacher involvement on the curriculum adoption teams. In the 2020-21 school year, we will continue to focus on increasing student achievement through offering high-quality academic programs that provide students and parents with a range of educational options. In 2019, we opened Envision Academy, located on the campus of Gilroy High School, to offer an innovative academic environment that is much different than a traditional high school classroom. The combination of online courses and teacher- directed courses will allow students more flexibility and control over the way in which they learn the subject matter. As we transitioned to online learning to open the 2020-21 school year, we are offering families two options: the distance learning model that most of our students are participating in, and the GUSD Virtual Learning Academy, which is a student/ caregiver-led program, where teachers act as advisors for learning.
The District offers exemplary and specialized programs such as the Sobrato Early Academic Language (SEAL) program which is offered at five elementary schools. Other signature District programs include the Dual Immersion program, GATE program, Biomedical Science Academy, Computer Science Academy, Future Farmers of America, and the Dr. TJ Owens Gilroy Early College Academy (GECA). I am pleased that all of these programs continue to flourish during distance learning in our district.
Schools in the Gilroy Unified School District have also been the recipients of a number of prestigious honors and awards over the last several years. Seven district schools have been recognized as California Distinguished Schools: GECA, Las Animas Elementary, Rod Kelley Elementary, Brownell Middle, Solorsano Middle, Christopher High and Gilroy High. Solorsano Middle School received the California Department of Education Gold Ribbon Award for their Restorative Justice Program as well as the federal Title I Academic Achieving School Award; Dr. TJ Owens Gilroy Early College Academy (GECA), Gilroy High School, Christopher High School, Las Animas Elementary School and Rod Kelley Elementary School were all recognized as Honor Roll schools; Rod Kelley Elementary School also received the School of Excellence Award from the California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE) for its Dual Immersion Program and was named one of the top schools for underserved students by Innovate Public Schools; Gilroy High School’s Biomedical Science Academy was the recipient of the Santa Clara County School Boards’ Association Glenn W. Hoffman Exemplary Program Award; and the District’s Dual Immersion Program located at Las Animas Elementary, Rod Kelley Elementary, South Valley Middle School and Gilroy High School all received the California School Board Association’s prestigious Golden Bell Award.
The District’s enrollment is currently 10,800 students, who are digitally "housed" at 14 sites throughout the District. Thanks to the support of voters, Measure E funds have allowed the District to begin the rebuild of two of its oldest campuses over the next five years: Brownell Middle School and South Valley Middle School. Construction at Brownell Middle will began in fall 2019, and is on track to be complete in 2021. The pool at Gilroy High School is also being replaced and will be ready for students once in-person learning returns. Other Measure E projects include: Information Technology (IT) improvements throughout the District in order to provide upgrades and improved services to students and staff; new science labs at Christopher High, Gilroy High and GECA; and many other capital improvements to be completed throughout the District. The District has also replaced the aging portables in the math wing at Gilroy High School with a new two-story, 20-classroom math building, which opened in the 2018-19 school year, and the installation of solar panels in the parking lots at Gilroy High and Christopher High.
I miss seeing our staff and students as I visit school sites and classrooms during the school year, but I am proud of the resilience and perseverance that our school communities have shown during these unprecedented times. My best wishes for a successful and productive digital school year!
Deborah A. Flores, Ph.D.
Gilroy Unified School District
Assistant to the Superintendent
Public Information Officer