California’s educational system is undergoing tremendous change as it transitions to new state standards, as well as new ways public schools receive funding and have to account to their communities. Those were highlights of San Bernardino County Superintendent Gary Thomas’ annual State of Education Address on Tuesday.

Thomas delivered his address at the California Theatre for the Performing Arts before a crowd of hundreds of educators, as well as elected officials and dignitaries.

“We are not strangers to change in education,” Thomas said. “For years, even decades, we’ve responded to educational trends, special legislation and the latest in school reform.”

Among the big changes in California are adoption of the new Common Core State Standards that will be implemented statewide for the 2014-15 academic year, as well as a new funding model from the state called the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF).

Along with the funding model, schools and districts have to be more accountable for how they are spending their money through the adoption of Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAP).

“For the first time in California’s history, we have a funding model that provides supplemental funds for our most disenfranchised students, and it allows local control so districts can assure the needs of their student populations are met,” Thomas said.

In addition to the big changes taking place statewide, Thomas also highlighted programs and students that have earned accolades for their innovation and relevance to preparing them to compete in the global economy.

The theme of Thomas’ address was “Transforming Lives on the Roadmap to Success.” The master of ceremonies for the event was Janice Rutherford, chairwoman of the County Board of Supervisors. Brian Kennedy, pastor of the Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Ontario, delivered the invocation. Brenda Castro, the captain of Chaffey High School’s three-time championship Academic Decathlon team, led the call for patriotic observances.

Thomas also introduced five students – Rebecca Barrios of Upland Junior High School; Rolando Holguin of Bob Murphy County Community Day School in Rialto; Jaidyn Jacobs of Crestmore Elementary School in Bloomington; Michael Janner of Redlands East Valley High School; and Tyler Schober of Apple Valley High School – who took part in a video describing the paths they have taken on their “roads to success.” Another student, Jordan Brown, a sophomore at Middle College High School in San Bernardino, served as a narrator for the videos.

“Transforming lives is what we are all about at County Schools – giving young people the power of hope and ideas; the power of knowledge; the power to dream and believe; and the power to succeed,” Thomas said. “We are providing students with equal access to high quality educational opportunities, innovative programs and inspiring staff.”

Thomas provided an update of the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools’ Strategic Plan that was adopted in 2012. He unveiled County Schools’ new brand promise: “With integrity, collaboration, expertise and leadership, we will transform lives through education.”

He also provided the first look at County Schools’ newly designed website – www.sbcss.k12.ca.us – that will go live to the public on March 1.

“Our public website features the most current web development technologies; is designed in a responsive template to interact on mobile devices and with social media; provides information and resources to our key audiences; and features stories about students and education in our county,” he said.

With more than 412,000 students enrolled in the county’s 33 school districts and more than 530 schools, Thomas talked about identifying key milestones for a child’s academic, personal, social and career readiness as the goal of the “Cradle to Career Roadmap.” The roadmap was developed as part of the San Bernardino Countywide Vision, a collaborative effort spearheaded by the Board of Supervisors and County CEO Greg Devereaux to engage communities, schools, districts and municipalities in a regional goal of support for education.

The “Cradle to Career Roadmap” shows a collective approach linking families, educators, government, business, labor, faith-based and community organizations as pillars in support of students from the time they are born until they complete advanced education programs or certificates.

In closing, Thomas reiterated that he has announced his retirement at the end of 2014 after more than 35 years in education.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as county superintendent,” said Thomas, who will have served six years in the role at the end of the year. He thanked his family, especially his wife Beverly, who is an elementary school teacher in the Victor Elementary School District, for supporting him over the years.

Even with his impending retirement, Thomas said there is plenty left to be accomplished.

“Education, we know, is at the center of progress in any culture and the determining factor of economic strength and social equity,” he said. “The connective power of education is transformative and lights up the path to a successful life.

“We ask our communities to invest, engage and demand a strong educational system that delivers innovative, inspiring educational opportunities for the prosperity of our current and future generations of students.”

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