STOCKTON — Leaders in education, business, and politics came together Tuesday afternoon at the Stockton Golf & Country Club for a forum on the topic of public education.
Hosted by the San Joaquin County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the hourlong event was a way for both local and state leaders to focus on the current status of education in California, and what is being done to further improve the lives of millions of schoolchildren.
Stockton Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy was the keynote speaker and addressed what he and his executive team are doing as they prepare for not only the first day of school on Thursday, but for years to come.
“Poverty is not destiny, ZIP code has nothing to do with disability,” said Deasy. “We intend to understand that and practice that every single day. We also believe that smart is not something you are, but something that everyone can become.”
Deasy, 58, acknowledged that SUSD, the largest school district in San Joaquin County with 41,000 students, has lagged behind other districts in terms of statewide testing of literacy and mathematics as well as graduation rates. While there is a lot to be done, he said, the district is ready to improve.
Essential to the district’s success is the continued belief that every single student can and will be highly successful at being college, career, and community ready when they graduate from SUSD.
Deasy said that what is equally important is having graduates eventually return to work in Stockton.
“I’m going to get old one day, and someone is going to take care of me medically. Someone is going to fly me to see my grandchildren, and someone is going to take care of me in a hospital. I want those people to know what they’re doing, and they’re going to be the youth of Stockton.”
Mayor Michael Tubbs served as panel moderator with Marshall Tuck, one of two candidates who will be on the November ballot for state superintendent of public instruction.
Tuck will face Tony Thurmond in the general election for the position now held by Tom Torlakson, who is terming out.
“I believe fundamentally that a public education is an absolute requirement for success for a child in this state — in this country — in the 21st century,” said Tuck, 45. “Every parent should have the comfort to send their child to a school that’s going to take care of them.”
Tuck has worked in public education for 16 years and has been able to help turn some of Los Angeles’ lowest-performing public schools into highly functioning campuses.
“Our state is not getting the job done in public education,” he said, saying that young black and Latino children are especially being left behind.
“Sacramento has failed our kids in public schools. It’s time for us, for the state, to truly prioritize public education and our low-income kids and get serious about what they deserve.”
The forum closed with 27-year-old SUSD Trustee Lange Luntao speaking about Stockton Scholars, a program announced in January that will provide funds to SUSD students to help them pay tuition and fees at a four-year university, a community college or a trade school. Luntao also serves as director of the program.
“I want you to think of Stockton Scholars as part of the equation,” Luntao told dignitaries. “We’re aiming to build a cradle-to-career continuum and use Stockton Scholars as a carrot to tell teachers, students, and families that if you do everything right, you have some resources to make this more attainable.”