The first day of school traditionally brings either a lot of excitement -- or a great deal of dread -- depending upon the student. But one thing's for certain. There probably wasn't anyone more fired up about the new school year than the always high-energy Superintendent of Schools Steve Hanke.
"You bet I had butterflies. These are great big schools. But the ability to work with great people who really promote student learning gets me very excited," he says.
The school doors opened last week, and more than 9,000 students walked inside. That's the largest school population ever in the city -- and it's still growing at a clip of about 10 percent per year. The bulk of the new students are entering the district at the elementary school level, but that's starting to spread out with more students coming into Dublin in the middle school and high school levels.
To accommodate this year's growth, the district added six portable classrooms at Dougherty Elementary and six at Dublin Elementary. The latter may sound a bit surprising, since most of the city's growth is occurring on the east side of town. But Hanke says there were no other elementary schools in town that had room for any more portables, so some students are traveling outside of their elementary school boundaries -- at least until Amador Elementary comes online next year.
The new east-side elementary school will be the first two-story primary school in the city. It will hold 950 students when it opens next fall. While Hanke has one eye on 2015, he told me that he expects 2014 to be a landmark year in a variety of ways, not the least of which is what he calls the "professional learning community practices," which essentially is the structure and process for teaching kids core standards, and providing appropriate intervention at all learning levels. This includes even more emphasis and investment in teacher development.
"We now see deeper roots on a system approach for success. There's been great collaboration with teachers who are working in teams focused on student learning and to create best practices."
Some of the changes that will be most visible to students and parents will be at the high school. Beyond the new classrooms, offices and fine arts complex -- which are beautiful -- DHS began an extended school day to help accommodate new programs, including freshman mentoring.
The lunch period has been extended for freshmen to take advantage of the Monday-through-Thursday program, which includes teacher-monitored mentoring from top juniors and seniors and more exposure to counselors who can collectively work to help for a smoother transition between middle school and high school.
There is also a new learning center for students having trouble with classes. In year one at DHS, the center will focus on help with algebra.
And, while some other districts have either canceled or scaled back the music program, Hanke says Dublin has ramped it up, including the beginning of an orchestra strings program at elementary schools.
The reality is that all of this is financially possible because Dublin is still growing, and because the voters approved past school bond measures. Will voters be so inclined in the future? That remains to be seen. But for now, Hanke says he's never really seen the type of community partnership and support for schools that exists in the city.
"We are in a unique community, with a unique opportunity. This is a community that really gets it when it comes to student learning."
Splat time o' year: Ready to Splatter? Sept. 20 is the date for this year's popular Splatter food, wine and art festival. "Tasting passports" are $30 for a prepurchase and $35 at the event itself, which will run from noon to 8 p.m. and conclude with fireworks.
By the way, it's highly likely that this will be the last year for a big fireworks display, as construction of the new Dublin Aquatics Center will take away space needed to launch the display.
The city was finalizing all of the food and wine suppliers at press time, but expect a combined total of at least 30 wineries, microbreweries, restaurants and other food suppliers to provide your taste buds with a little Saturday afternoon excitement. There will also be 10 food trucks on site to help fill everyone up.
Naturally, there will be art displays, interactive art, vendors and music. In other words, it should be a lot of fun for adults and families. For more information, log onto www.dublin.ca.gov/splatter.
Contact Alan Elias at firstname.lastname@example.org.