With the 2019-2020 school year coming into session, many parents want to know what programs are available for their children to succeed. To outline what San Bernardino City Unified School District has to offer, Board of Education Vice President Gwendolyn Dowdy-Rodgers spoke at the Democratic Luncheon Club on Aug. 2.
"It's important for me to give (the public) a report card," said Dowdy-Rodgers, as she provided informational materials to those present. "Yes the Internet is there, you can go on the Internet, but you should be able to (know) how we're doing as a whole."
A native of San Bernardino who attended San Bernardino High School, Dowdy-Rodgers was appointed to the board after Bobby Perong vacated her post in 2015. She's proud to serve this city.
"I have no shame in saying, 'San Bernardino - I love it.' I know there are things that have happened in the city, but I don't wake up in fear in the morning and say, 'Somebody's gonna get me.' I just don't. I think if we live that way, we can dispel a lot of negativity that people come up and create."
Today SBCUSD has a graduation rate of 91.8 percent, up from 85 percent in 2015. But Dowdy-Rodgers wants to look beyond graduation rates.
"Graduation rate increasing is great and I love it. However, once you get deeper into it, you also have to peel back (and find out) what does it mean? How many of our students are ready to go to college?"
Dowdy-Rodgers says her prerogative is seeing what each investment in schools and students does to improve learning outcomes.
"I'm an academic boardmember so I'm saying this: If I give you something, how is it going to make you better? Is it going to make you better just because you can thumb your way through something, or are you going to really be able to retain the information if you go to college?"
She wants students to be college and career ready as a result of investments being made.
SBCUSD's Linked Learning has over 50 career pathway academies available to students at its nine high schools, linking students to potential employers through San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools' Generation GO program.
"Back in our day we had wood shop… auto shop and ceramics. Our students are getting internships, going to the county, getting certifications. We're doing all that work (to make that happen)."
In addition, Dowdy-Rodgers sees reason to bring back home economics.
"I want to talk to our state superintendent soon… somewhere in the neighborhood we're gonna have to figure out this home economics again. Kids don't know how to do anything except for sit in the classroom. I've done some research and found that we're not doing any better by putting electronics in the hands of our students."
Chromebooks are available to every student in SBCUSD schools who does not have such technology available to them at home.
As a foster youth advocate, Dowdy-Rodgers says she's confronting mental health challenges head-on.
"The importance of putting our students… in mainstream, we're saying 'You're not different…' just because of a learning disability. But if we separate them and not put them in the mainstream, then we're saying, 'You cannot do well, you cannot do better.'"
When asked about her view of the Common Core math standards initiative, Dowdy-Rodgers didn't shy away.
"If there's a way to try to promote more learning, because we know it works," Dowdy-Rodgers wants to explore integrating the old with the new in the classroom. "It's unfortunate now for our parents, they cannot sit at the table and help their child. They may be able to say 'I know the answer is eight,' but how they explain it, if they don't write it out and do it that way it's gonna be wrong. And it's also really confusing for the kids…"
Dowdy-Rodgers has observed graduates having to take remedial math in college, which is why she wants traditional math back in the classroom.
Dowdy-Rodgers is driven to achieve results, as she raised three children in San Bernardino schools.
"What I said to my kids is, 'You're gonna be good at wherever you go, because of your mother.' And that is because we as parents are responsible to make sure that our students are successful."
Most importantly, Dowdy-Rodgers encourages parents to not only keep nudging students along to graduation, but to bring her any questions they may have.
"They have to interact; They also have to let us know, regardless of what the rules are, what is best for (their) student. We're open to making it better for the student."
For additional resources or to learn more about the district's career pathways, visit sbcusd.com.