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School Board Embraces Destination Graduation
County Superintendent Pays Visit
Stanislaus County Superintendent of Schools Tom Changnon addressed the Oakdale school board and those in attendance at the meeting Monday night for consideration of approval of resolution Destination Graduation Initiative. The board unanimously approved it. Teresa Hammond/The Leader

It was a standing room only night at the Oakdale Joint Unified School Board meeting on Monday night. Students Clara Redd, Allison Dunlop and Remington Ryland of Fair Oaks led the group in the Pledge of Allegiance as the meeting was called to order.

Oakdale community member and OHS parent Chris Elswick addressed the board during Public Comment.

“I would like to reconsider the board’s policy on unnatural hair color,” Elswick said. “It seems like a really silly and outdated policy to me. I think that we need to be appreciative of all kids and their decisions to be a little bit different and express their individuality. I would like for this to be on the next agenda, is that possible?”

Elswick was addressed by Superintendent Marc Malone and encouraged to request a meeting with Assistant Superintendent Larry Mendonca, indicating that once it is discussed and reviewed by Mendonca, any revision must then be board approved.

“That’s good to hear,” Elswick stated, “because the only thing I’ve heard is that my daughter has been given a date and she needs to comply or she’s going to be suspended or placed on home restriction.”

Board member Mike Tozzi also addressed Elswick, offering encouragement to become familiar with the policy and then discuss it with Mendonca.

Following approval of the agenda, Superintendent Malone offered acknowledgement of the room filled with blue jackets, signifying a large presence of OHS FFA members.

“Oakdale FFA had an outstanding showing at the 2015 Stanislaus County Fair and State Fair,” Malone said. “With each year, at least within the last four years, we have put a high priority on our FFA and our Ag program and you are seeing the results.”

This year was a special year and Oakdale really shined,” he continued. “Oakdale FFA brought home the Outstanding FFA Chapter Livestock Exhibit Award, which has not been won by Oakdale FFA since 1986.”

A total of 29 students were acknowledged for their efforts and representation of Oakdale High School FFA.

In addition to the regular business and monthly reports, Stanislaus County Superintendent of Schools Tom Changnon was also in attendance to address the board for Approval of Resolution #15-16-05, the Destination Graduation Initiative.

Changnon thanked the board as well as audience for the opportunity to speak.

“I am most certain that I am preaching to the choir when I speak to the Oakdale community, specifically the Oakdale school board and the school district. This presentation of the FFA students was fabulous.

“I tell you if every student in America was required to memorize the FFA code, we would have significantly fewer problems in our society.”

The overall goal of the Destination Graduation Initiative is to increase the number of high school students in Stanislaus County.

Changnon shared a number of county statistics including the drop out number for the 2013-14 school year. During that time frame a total of 350 females and 512 males, both primarily from Hispanic descent were reported to have dropped out of school.

The Superintendent shared that the problem is one which begins at the elementary level, citing the importance of varying things including mentor support, involvement and at home reading.

“Our country has become a country of the haves and have nots,” he said. “The number of have nots that are in our communities is growing and we must do something about it.”

Here’s the problem with Stanislaus County, we have over 22 percent of families and children living in Stanislaus County at or below the poverty line,” he continued. “Those families are living on $24,000 or less and then we’re thinking how are they not getting this Common Core? Common Core? They’re in survival mode.”

During his presentation, Changnon shared a number of varying statistics indicating the need to foster children from early on in their educational career. He offered a number of programs and volunteer opportunities for community members to help get involved with the solution.

Prior to the board taking their vote, the county superintendent concluded by stating, “I just want to thank Oakdale school district and the community for being so caring and welcoming and supportive of each other. You know the old saying ‘I got your back?’ This community still believes in that ‘I got your back’ thing. You do not let young people slip through the cracks, it doesn’t happen.

“Good things happen to good people and good communities,” he added. “This is the showcase and the shining star of Stanislaus County. I know you’re very proud of it and you should be, because you work hard. It doesn’t come easy, but you work hard.”

The resolution was passed unanimously by the board.

OJUSD will host its next monthly board meeting on Monday, Oct. 12. The meeting will be conducted at Oakdale City Council Chambers, 277 N. Second Ave., Oakdale. Open Session will begin at 6:30 p.m.