Last week as we were preparing the 2020 edition of “Our Town,” Highland Community News’ annual community guide, I was updating the information for the two public school districts serving Highland and found that for 2017-18 the San Bernardino City Unified School District (SBCUSD) earned a graduation rate of 91.8 percent.

That’s a significant improvement from the rate when I started reporting on the district in 2013, 75.5 percent, and represents the diligent work by district administration, teachers, staff and parents.

While I’m sure all families and communities served by the district appreciate the accomplishment of building a steadily improving education system for their kids, Highlanders have their own unique reason to be grateful.

Among Highland residents there are, at times, a divide between those who live west of Boulder Avenue and those in the east side of town with accusations from the westsiders that they are neglected by the city and “get the short end of the stick.”

While these claims are largely baseless as evidenced by the city’s significant investments focused on the west side where, in recent years, the city has built a new library, a new police station, a new community park and the YMCA. More recently, the city began its 5-year street rehabilitation program by scheduling improvements for the west side first.

But, for many years, when someone made the claim that eastside Highlanders benefitted from a significantly better school district it was difficult to debate.

The city’s students attend Redlands Unified School District (RUSD) if they live east of Boulder and SBCUSD if they live west of Boulder, roughly.

RUSD has long held a reputation as one of the absolute finest schools in the region while, up until about few years ago, San Bernardino was a challenged district.

Thanks to the efforts at SBCUSD, that discrepancy has been evening out as SBCUSD rises to new standards.

It’s a double blessing to the city, not just for the sake of better education for Highland students but for creating further equity in city divided into two school districts.

While the graduation rate is just one measure for a district’s success, RUSD has been at the top of most measures and has lived in the mid-90s percentile graduation rate for many years. According to the California School Dashboard, in 2018, RUSD had a graduation rate of 90.7 percent while SBCUSD reached 91.8 percent. This is likely the closest the two districts have been in decades.

Last year, RUSD had a 95.1 percent graduation rate and SBUCSD had 91 percent.

SBCUSD’s growing success takes nothing away from RUSD status as a top district, but does allow SBCUSD to join the top ranks.

While 90.7 percent is an excellent graduation rate, I’m sure RUSD has already begun to dedicate considerable effort to regain that mid-90s percentile.

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