New superintendent talks plans for WCCUSD
on September 12, 2016
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There’s a new face in the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) central office. Matthew Duffy, the district’s first new superintendent in 10 years, took office on July 6, following the retirement of Dr. Bruce Harter.
Although new to WCCUSD, Duffy is no stranger to the Bay Area. He previously served in the administrations of the Milpitas and Oakland school districts and was drawn to WCCUSD by its community.
“I see this as a place where families and kids are working really hard and deserve a great education,” Duffy said.
This school year, Duffy plans to visit schools and classrooms and meet with community groups to learn what the district wants and needs.
“Through listening, watching and analyzing, I think I can make decisions that are beneficial for students,” Duffy said. “I don’t come with a prepackaged plan or canned set of answers.”
Academic performance and school climate are two areas in need of improvement, Duffy said.
Although up from the 2013-2014 academic year, West Contra Costa schools’ SAT and ACT college entrance exam scores fell below both the county and state averages in the 2014-2015 academic year, the latest year for which data is available. DeAnza, Kennedy and Richmond high schools all recorded SAT scores lower than the district average, and Richmond High School averaged the lowest English, math and science ACT scores in the district.
“We would like to perform better on all of our assessments, that’s what we’re setting out to do,” Duffy said.
The district opened full-day kindergarten this year for the first time, which Duffy said will be “really beneficial” to the school district’s academic performance in the future.
The WCCUSD One-to-One Initiative will also “be stronger” this year, he said. The initiative aims to bring more resources to the students by providing each with a tablet for academic use.
The district’s high truancy rates also have an adverse impact on academic performance, Duffy said. During the 2013-2014 academic year, Lovonya DeJean Middle School, DeAnza High School and Richmond High School each reported truancy rates of nearly 90 percent, significantly higher than the district’s average rate of 59.7 percent and the state’s average truancy rate of 31.14 percent.
Although truancy rates fell in 2015-2016, “we still need to improve,” Duffy said. “There’s a strong correlation between attendance and student success.”
Over the past three academic years, charter school enrollment has steadily risen across the district. More charter schools are opening in Richmond than in any other city in the district, said Duffy.
“There’s a sense we’re not good enough,” he said.
Duffy said he plans to focus on empowering teachers and students to take ownership of their classrooms and schoolwork, and to create school environments in which parents and students “feel great the moment they walk in.”
He also hopes to expand the district’s music and arts programs, job training programs, student internship opportunities and dual immersion language programs, such as the English-Spanish dual immersion program currently offered at Richmond’s Washington Elementary School.
WCCUSD has been “struggling in some areas to create the kind of school climates that are positive,” Duffy said. “I want to take my time and build the right structures,” he said.
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