Opinion: Natomas Unified Can Do Better

FOR THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

Natomas Black Parents United members gather in the school district lobby prior to speaking before the Natomas Unified school board.

Natomas Black Parents United has a mission to ensure efficient and quality standards of learning for all of our students. Within our mission, we envision Natomas Unified School District as one of the main vessels to aid with ensuring excellent outcomes for students. 

According to the 2022-23 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) scores, only 22% of Natomas Unified Black students at all schools could read at grade level. While the COVID pandemic deeply impacted the education system as a whole, it is not a factor in this situation as these results were not much better prior to COVID. In 2014-15, the CAASPP scores demonstrated that a mere 25% of Natomas Unified’s Black students could read at grade level. These scores are simply unacceptable! 

Unfortunately, these low CAASPP results are not new for Natomas Unified Black students. Natomas Unified teachers and administrators have been aware of the dismal scores for a number of years. Now, the concerned members of Natomas Black Parents United have joined together and are fervent in bringing this major issue to the forefront. Minimally, our expectation is for Natomas Unified to do the job for which they are being compensated. This is to ensure all students are receiving an effective and quality education, particularly students who are falling behind standard grade levels.  

Since 2020, Natomas Black Parents United has met with several Natomas Unified leaders including Principal Baker formerly at Natomas Middle School (now lead administrator at Natomas High School), principal Scott Pitts at Inderkum High School, school board president Susan Heredia, school board trustees Micah Grant, Ericka Harden, Noel Mora, Scott Dosick and former 20-year school board member Lisa Kaplan. We also had several meetings with recently retired superintendent Chris Evans. In addition we have met with the recently hired superintendent Dr. Robyn Castillo and her executive staff.

The goal is to not only voice our concerns, but also present proper actionable solutions in order to address this dire situation. While some of these individuals have demonstrated genuine concern, and small parts of our solutions have been added, the overall response has been lukewarm at best and often met with resistance and skepticism.

It is important to note, Natomas Black Parents United is a parent organization. We are not skilled and trained educators. However, the lack of skill in this regard does not lessen the fact that we are concerned parents with the obligation and ultimate understanding that proper public education is a right, not a privilege afforded only to those with certain means. 

Natomas Unified has a shared obligation in the equation with the specific vision and charge to, “provide an engaging and safe learning community where all students will demonstrate responsibility, achieve academic and social-emotional growth, embrace diversity and are prepared to make decisions about their college and career success.” (natomasunitied.org/vision).

As a result, all of us at Natomas Black Parents United implore Natomas Unified to act now. They must act with urgency to educate our children in reading by using the appropriate literacy tools, measures and mechanisms to reverse these abysmal test scores. Our children cannot wait!

We understand there are currently pilots in place for 60 students, however there are thousands more students who need help. This stark need demands more viable programs. We also understand there are untapped funds in our reserve that are intended for high-needs students.

While we recognize there is a new program in place, Learning Recovery Enrichment Athletics/ Arts/ Academics/ Activities Program (LEAP), as stated on their FAQ post, “..can only service a limited number of students’.. The other vendors provide child care type after school programs, these programs are not staffed by educators and are inadequate in providing even the most rudimentary educational needs. Likewise the district’s current, ”Literacy Through Writing Plan”, has yielded an improvement of less than three per cent for all Pre K-12th grade students.

Natomas Black Parents United proposed four solutions to address the culture of indifference towards reading rates for Black students at the March 27, 2024 Natomas Unified school board meeting. We now present our case to you, our allies. We ask you to join the effort to persuade Natomas Unified decision makers to implement them immediately: 

If you support our efforts, please:

1) Sign the petition (click here)
2) Email your Trustee / Board Member with your requests.(click here)
3) Call Superintendent Dr. Robyn Castillo 916-567-5400 to express your concerns and state your requests.
4) Join Natomas Black Parents United! (Click here) There is strength in numbers! 

Respectfully submitted,
Natomas Black Parents United

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