The Fresno Unified School District has an opportunity for a new beginning in its efforts to improve the dropout problem that plagues our community. The seven school board members and Superintendent Michael Hanson should embrace this opening, and not use the dropout issue to rehash their petty internal battles. The community deserves better from the leaders of the local school system.
On Wednesday, board members asked Hanson to explore creation of a dropout intervention commission. We think this is an excellent idea, although the makeup of the commission needs to be carefully thought out.
While the board asked for the dropout commission, some of the trustees were reluctant because they see it as an attack on the superintendents tenure. We must move beyond such complaints if we are going to improve the graduation rate.
Its time for the board to face the seriousness of the dropout problem in Fresno, and ask for help. While current dropout programs may be having positive results, much more must be done. To circle the wagons down at the district office, as some trustees have done, is not helpful.
While schools see the dropout problem first hand, it is not just an education problem. The community must be involved in finding solutions that offer our young people reasons to stay in school, and not join gangs, which in some neighborhoods have become the family unit for too many.
The board and superintendent should consider holding a workshop to determine who should be involved in the dropout commission. It must be very broad-based. In addition to school and community participation, the commission should have representatives from the city, police, probation and drug and gang intervention programs. Board members and Hanson likely would add other groups to the mix.
There needs to be a selection process, such as each board member and superintendent getting three appointments. That would make it a 24-member commission. The group could tackle parts of the problem and bring recommendations back to the board after holding public hearings.
School board members must take personal responsibility for the district's dropout problem. They are the elected officials and they must do more than point fingers or act as if there isn't a serious problem. Improving the graduation rate shouldn't cause a split among trustees. The community deserves a unified effort on this issue.
We believe that a dropout intervention commission can build on the districts current efforts. This problem impacts the entire community, and we all have a stake in getting more young people to graduate from high school.