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Schools

State superintendent pays a visit


Photo By: Traci Newell/Town Crier
Photo Traci Newell/Town Crier Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction, addresses a group of local donors and school administrators last week at Mountain View High School.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson visited Mountain View High School Aug. 9 to discuss education issues with administrators and the community’s top donors.

The breakfast event, co-sponsored by the Mountain View Los Altos High School Foundation, the Los Altos Educational Foundation and the Mountain View Educational Foundation, offered Torlakson the opportunity to emphasize a major theme: teamwork and how “together everyone accomplishes more.” He praised donors for their efforts in raising more than $4 million for public schools in the area.

“You are part of a team, just like the women gymnasts that did so well (in the Olympics),” he said. “What an incredible job you are doing here in Mountain View-Los Altos working for our schools.”

Torlakson compared his work as superintendent to his former job as a track coach.

“It is about empowering students to believe in themselves, engendering self-confidence and recognizing and honoring personal bests,” he said. “I think that is what we all stand for as we fight for the best education possible.”

He outlined the state’s efforts to improve education via the Blueprint for Great Schools program, which focuses on providing a 21st-century education that stresses problem-solving, critical thinking, technology tools and STEM (Science, Technology Engineering and Math).

Torlakson said he wants “no child left offline,” and explained how the state aims for 1-to-1 computing access for students at school and home.

The state superintendent also discussed the need to improve school facilities throughout the state. He said the state should approach voters in 2014 with a request for a $9 billion bond to invest in modernizing schools, highlighting energy efficiency and solar-panel installation. Torlakson estimated that updating facilities could save schools $2 billion annually.

Torlakson addressed the financial health of the state’s schools.

“Money isn’t everything – but it is important. You know that, because you are here and you are contributing,” he said to the donors.

Public schools have lost 25 percent of their funding and risk losing another 10 percent if the tax initiatives on the November ballot fail to pass, according to Torlakson. The state faces a difficult challenge, he said, in educating the nearly 70 percent of Californians who don’t have children in K-12 schools about the plight of education.

“We want to work toward getting the state to re-examine priorities and work with our networks to have a conversation about the importance of education,” he said. “We have a daunting challenge to educate the public at large.”

Torlakson said that if the tax initiatives fail in November, school districts may have to cut their school years an additional 15 days, a “major impact.”

“I am an optimist,” he said. “You are here because you believe we can make it better and we can prevail. Help us. We need your assistance beyond today and locally. We need to get the word out to Californians.”

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