RICHMOND -- West Contra Costa school district trustees decided on three principle objectives for 2013 at their annual retreat Saturday.
They want to broaden technology available to students and staff, look into a campaign for a new parcel tax as an extra source of reliable funding for programs, and get a running start on implementing state-mandated common core standards.
Their larger goal is to offer an education districtwide that is comparable to wealthier districts in instruction and facilities.
Trustees are also working to overcome what some have characterized as a "a plantation mentality," where many students do not see opportunities to advance in careers and in life beyond their own often-troubled neighborhoods, said consultant Tracey Webb, who led the board's idea-sharing sessions.
"(Students) don't have a sense that they want to take themselves to another plane," said board member Charles Ramsey. "Too often, our schools aren't a place of learning."
Trustees cited a number of priorities in the work session but narrowed their focus to the three main goals.
West Contra Costa has $35 million from Measure E, the bond measure approved by voters Nov. 6, to devote to improving technology and technology instruction.
Board members agreed they want to use it to help teachers increase their awareness of new technologies, add more wireless access in schools, develop online networks for communication and idea sharing, and improve the district's own website to make it a more effective communication tool.
The board has targeted a new parcel tax to meet the second goal of providing more stable funding for school programs. Trustees may decide to commission a voter-preference poll to explore the best time to put a tax on the ballot and the level at which voters might be interested in funding it at the board's meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Lovonya DeJean Middle School, 3400 Macdonald Ave., Richmond.
Voters in November approved Measure G, extending an existing parcel tax five years beyond its expiration date of June 13, 2014.
If they decide to go ahead with a new measure, board members will develop a campaign strategy for the tax and try to mobilize community volunteers behind it, as in the past. Some board members suggested tapping into excitement over new technology and technology careers as a key approach.
"We're going to have a conversation around going for the poll," said school board President Madeline Kronenberg.
West Contra Costa will also concentrate on meeting so-called common core standards by the 2014-15 school year.
The intent of the standards is to provide parents and teachers with a clear understanding of what students are expected to learn in school to help them find success in college and careers.
A key part of the effort is creating clear goals and strategies for learning in science, math and engineering.
The district wants to produce a plan to implement the standards by the spring so teachers and administrators will be ready for the rollout in the fall of next year, said Superintendent Bruce Harter.
Trustees' other goals include increasing parent involvement, perhaps through more town hall meetings, class-size reduction, and encouraging cities to share in maintaining facilities, such as school gyms and playing fields, that are available for public use.
"School gyms are in use excessively," Ramsey said. "The facilities get depreciated by use, and rehabilitation is all on the backs of the district."