In the latest expansion of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) department, the School Board on Tuesday approved a new veterinary science course that will be offered at PHS in the fall.
The course, which is on the agriculture pathway but can be taken as an elective, will provide students an applied scientific study in the area of animals and veterinary care, with a focus on laboratory science skills. Each unit includes a clinical practice component to put the knowledge learned into a real veterinary clinical situation. Students will also learn industry practices such as office procedures, public relations and communications.
Jose Sanchez, Principal of Del Puerto High School (DPHS), gave a report on Total Quality Review, a program that evaluates each school in a number of areas.
One of those areas is making sure that students have a career plan for after high school. “It doesn’t have to be a four-year college. It can be at Modesto Junior College, it can be Universal Technical Institute; it can be anything. But they have to make a plan for something,” Sanchez said. “It’s very important for them to have a plan,” he said, and the students’ senior project assignments are used to facilitate that.
DPHS students’ access to enrichment programs, such as the Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs available at Patterson High, has been expanded. Three students are currently enrolled in that program. “It’s a great opportunity for them,” Sanchez said.
Also in the works is an Alumni Day, he said, to give students an opportunity to hear what DPHS graduates are doing after high school, including one who is a registered nurse.
The school also recently held its first-ever dance.
Teaching strategies are now geared towards information students will need after they graduate, Sanchez said, giving the example of math, where students learn about things like interest on auto loans and home mortgages.
Students leave with “a definite idea about life after high school, and their career pathways,” Sanchez said. “Sometimes they do know what they want to do; it’s the follow-through… Even though they have left our school and graduated, we want to be able to support them.”
The school’s graduation rate has increased 69 percent in the last year, Sanchez said. “I’m very proud of our students, and our staff.”
Facilities construction challenge
Despite some big-ticket projects, a couple of factors have made it challenging for the district to obtain contractors willing to build school facilities here.
Because of laws intended to make sure that all qualified contractors have an opportunity to bid on construction projects that benefit the public, school districts are required to solicit bids, and hire builders, based on certain criteria. One of these is that they are constrained to accept the “lowest responsible bid.” Another is the question of union wages and benefits paid to construction workers on the project, regardless of whether the construction project is a union job. These factors tend to limit the available pool; for one recent $4.5 million project, the district received only one bid.
As an alternative, attorney David Soldani, of Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo, explained the concept of Project Labor Agreements to the board. Such agreements allow for hiring local labor, Soldani explained, guarantee wage costs, and provide greater access to union apprenticeship programs, which is required.
However, such agreements can be a challenge for non-union contractors, who would be required to pay towards union pensions and other benefits, which would tend to exclude smaller contractors, many of which are women- and minority-owned businesses. This can also increase the cost of the project, because there are fewer contractors in a position to bid on jobs.
Instead of being required to accept the “lowest responsible bid,” lease-leasebacks allow districts to base the hiring decision on attributes they deem important in builders, such as experience on similar projects.
Taking the lowest bid can cause delays and cost overruns, Soldani said, because, “sometimes, in the rush of submitting bids, some items are missed.”
In response to a lawsuit, legislation outlining the process for such arrangements was passed in 2017, and school districts are again using this mechanism. “It yields some pretty good results,” Soldani said, “and it gives you some flexibility to make decisions based on more than just, ‘What’s the cheapest way to do it?’”
School Board President Michele Bays said, “the cheapest sometimes gets you into a lot of trouble,” and pointed out that “if that’s your only criteria you’re looking at, you’re not really doing your due diligence for what’s best for the district.” The board asked Soldani to provide guidelines on creating a scoring matrix for potential builders.