Student Voices

The rolling fiasco in the Vallejo school district reached new heights of absurdity with last week’s report that the $75,000 spent to investigate the superintendent's ill-considered charges against our teachers came up empty.  Superintendent Bishop leveled accusations of unprofessional conduct and active sabotage following the decision of the accreditation committee to put Vallejo high school on probation.  The committee’s decision was based on their finding that the school deviates significantly from established standards.  Who is responsible, those administering the school or teachers who refuse to assist in the effort to conceal very real problems? 
 
The concerns cited by the committee include such basics as student safety on campus.  How can we expect our students to learn if we can't even provide a safe environment? 
The following messages come from students in the Vallejo Unified School District who want to share their experiences in the hope that it will help build public pressure for fundamental reform.  The parents have given their approval to publish these letters anonymously to avoid possible reprisal.
Hello, I am a senior in Vallejo High School  and I am concerned about the educational system. Students are being passed onto difficult classes when they had a grade as low as a D in their previous ones.  During the Spring Semester of 2016, a math teacher was gone for about 3 to 4 months. At least 150 students needed help in either Geometry, Algebra, and Algebra 2.  They had substitute teachers who did not know how to help them with their classwork or they were stuck in the auditorium, wasting their educational time. 
 
Then in May, the Juniors were forced to take the CAASPP test even though they did not know a lot of Algebra 2.  By the end of the semester, most students I know from that class got a P, D or F.  How did students pass the test when they did not know the material and their teacher was gone for months?  As a concerned math tutor, I am concerned for the students of Vallejo High School and their future. They deserve better than this and those 150 students are now set up for failure.
Teachers of Vallejo High School
Teachers need to be more helpful in classrooms.  They also need to be more attentive to student's needs rather than their behavior and actions.  Some teachers lock their doors as soon as the bell rings and mark tardy students absent.  Tardy students are then made even more late by having to get a pass from the office, that isn't even required until 30 minutes after the bell.   A student is also marked tardy (by certain teachers) if they set foot in class as the bell rings. 
Vallejo High School is at a loss of teachers and substitutes.  Students and teachers are upset because teachers no longer want to stay at Vallejo High due to lack of teachers and loss of education. 
Vice Principals take advantage of their position of authority to suspend students for no valid reason.  Example to this:  A VP walked into class and a student welcomed them.  The VP then told the student they were suspended and to go to the office.  That student had been trying to do well in school to get onto the basketball team, and with that one suspension lost all chances and gave up on doing their work.   Later that week the same VP  told another student they had detention but marked them suspended for the next day.
Admins have restricted lesson plans for teachers with the same lesson plans for 20 years +.  This restriction upset many teachers & students, causing them to lose interest in education and cause teachers to want to leave. 
Example:  A teacher shows movies every Friday as part of their lesson plan for more than 20 years.  These movies relate to every lesson learned the week before.  One day a VP tells the teacher to stop immediately or consequences will be shown.  It upset all students the teacher had and caused students to stop showing up to class due to a lack of interest.
MY CONCERNS REGARDING VCUSD
 
  • OUTDATED textbooks. How are our schools here even still accredited or legal?
  • SHORTAGE of teachers...Why don’t we have teachers?? Why is the district paying teachers really low?
  • TEACHERS aren’t teaching curriculum…The district needs to stop hiring just anybody which again brings up the topic of salary (If I, myself, was getting paid really low as a teacher, I would be giving my students definitions everyday too).
  • DISGUSTING bathrooms...Bodily fluids and used feminine hygiene products are everywhere, and there is that smell of horrible body odors.
  • NEVER or RARELY bathrooms are open. I understand we don’t want students playing around in the bathrooms, but that’s where good campus security comes into PLAY. Locking up bathrooms is a violation of the Williams Act.
  • CAMPUS SECURITY… Drinking on campus, flirting with the students, standing around when students aren’t doing what they are supposed to do… Why were four students punished for walking out, when at Vallejo High, many students are always out of class without being disciplined?
  • MORE DISTRICT INVOLVEMENT WITH EXTRACURRICULAR PROGRAMS. Vallejo football team is using the money they make from games to just get by. Our MUSIC PROGRAMS ARE DYING OUT. Vallejo City Band has a high reputation. CHEER needs assistance as well. Cheer needs financial help and coaches. District needs to provide financially to have music programs and other programs to improve student learning.
  • MORE ACADEMY CLASS OPTIONS. For example, we have VAPA which is the Visual and Performing Arts Academy, and LOTS of students are complaining about the media production class. And so, they would rather have an art, band, drama or even a recording studio class.
  • STABLE tutoring programs at our High Schools!! Not an on-and-off thing between teachers, but to have an actual tutoring center.
  • MORE emphasis on LEADERSHIP. STOP HIRING YOUR FRIENDS and hire people who have administrative experience.. We don’t need so many vice-principals.
  • STOP FACULTY BULLYING AND HARASSMENT…They know what that means.

Anonymous Vallejo High School student
 
From a Middle School Student:
On October 7, there was a fight after school.  In my opinion, the site safety dealt with it a little too harshly.  I was a primary witness.  One of the site safety pulled one of the boys involved in the fight back and "body slammed" him on the ground.  After doing so, the same site safety got on top of the kid as if he were being held down by the police for having a firearm.  The other student from the incident did not get treated the same way as the first student did from what I have seen.  He got escorted away from the scene and into the office.  Due to the other site safeties pushing kids away from the fight I wasn't able to see anything else.
Parent Voices
I am a parent of VCUSD.  Ever since our family has been part of this district, I have been hearing from parents that if I class does not have a substitute, that class gets divided to go to other classrooms of students of other grades where they have teachers.
I confirmed that this is true because several times this past school year and this year, I observed several 5th graders in a classroom of a 1st grade class.  It seemed to me the 1st grade teacher would have to be responsible in looking after these 5th grade students while teaching first grade students. This is not fair to this teacher or other teachers in this district if they have to be responsible for students in addition to the ones they are already teaching. It was not fair to these students who ended up in this situation and any future students that this ongoing issue will affect.  

 I remember bumping into a lady in a grocery store who happened to be recommending another person to substitute at MIT Academy.  After having apologized in overhearing her conversation with this other person, she confirmed with me that she rather be a substitute for MIT Academy than for any school in the Vallejo School District. This made me wonder if the lack of substitutes not only occurs at my child’s school, but also district-wide.

VCUSD Parent
November 7, 2016

I have two students attending Vallejo High.  Weeks ago my kids came home and told me there was a fight at the school which resulted in a teacher being stalked and head being smashed in the door.  I don't know if the student was reprimanded correctly, but I do know that he is still attending the school. Things like this really are unacceptable as security measures at Vallejo High School are not up to par nor enforced! Thus causing fear for both students and teachers and therefore academics are not being taught well to the kids when they really want to learn.

The truant system of Vallejo High School is poorly enforced also. They will send out letters. However when a parent goes to the school to inquire with the correct department, that department apparently does not exist. The main office will bring it over to the attendance office and the attendance office phones over to a counselor. It will take at least a week for a counselor to even respond to a message left on their voicemail for them to call the principal or vice-principal the student falls under.

So much more needs to be done at Vallejo High School because there are students who want to learn and succeed academically.  Teachers and parents correctly inquire and try to be a part of the goings-on at the school.  My kids have witnessed kids smoking weed around or on the school campus. They have witnessed site supervisors smoking weed with some of the students. They witnessed some teachers using foul language to teach students in their classes, as well as site supervisors using foul language with the kids.

VCUSD Parent
 
Violence and bullying on our campuses have remained intractable problems for years.  Vallejo High School “deviates significantly” in one or more areas from established standards.  That is the conclusion arrived at by the Accrediting Commission for Schools from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges institution who put Vallejo High School on probation after officials toured the campus earlier this year.  The Commission cited student safety as one of the main issues of concern.
A former student shares her experiences in the Vallejo District, Summer 2016
Campus Violence Spring 2016
Enough is enough!  Time for a wholesale change in leadership.  When we're starting in a hole this deep it's going to take time and the efforts of more than just a handful of school board members to climb out.  The health of our school district affects every Vallejo resident, and we need to fix this mess.  Electing a new working majority is just the beginning of a long road, but it's one we will have to walk together.  Our kids are depending on us to get this right.