Two days after the Kalmanovitz School of Education opened in Filippi Academic Hall with a Jan. 24 gala celebration, class was already back in session.
Hundreds of Contra Costa teachers, Saint Mary's education faculty and alumni gathered at the College for a Jan. 26 panel devoted to challenges facing California public schools, including doing more to reach students of color during this era of budget cuts.
"We've been asked to cut $4 billion from education by Governor Schwarzenegger," said State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata '67. "I don't know how we're going to get through this."
Moderator and NBC-11 anchor Laura Garcia-Cannon '91 noted that California public schools already face significant funding problems before any proposed budget cuts might take effect.
"California public schools went from 43rd to 46th last year (in spending per pupil)," she said. "It spends almost $2,000 less per student than the national average."
Several panelists noted that funding shortfalls have a disproportionate impact in poor and minority communities, where inadequate facilities and teacher burnout are more common.
"We need to have a conversation about who the gatekeepers are and how we can change the lock so everyone can enter and be prepared to meet the challenges on the other side," said Dr. Margaret Norris of the Mt. Diablo Unified School District.
Perata also criticized the 2002 No Child Left Behind Law for requiring teachers to improve schools' test scores without giving them the tools to do so.
"We either need to fund No Child Left Behind or get rid of it," Perata said, adding, "Since we're not going to fund it, we ought to get rid of it."
Panelists were unanimous in recommending more funding for education, but several also stressed that teachers must always stretch themselves to reach students and also parents.
"There's an adversarial gap between school folks and parents that we need to bridge," said Contra Costa Curriculum Director Abe Doctolero. "And I don't know if you can expect a single parent with three kids who is working two jobs to reach out to us and play in our backyard by our rules."
This discussion about California's public schools was part of a weekend of activities to commemorate the opening of Filippi Academic Hall, the $23.4 million home of the Kalmanovitz School of Education.
Oakland Bishop Allen Vigneron blessed the new building at the Jan. 24 ceremony for trustees and donors, and the Saint Mary's community toured the hall during an Open House the next day.
The two-story, 39,313-square-foot building includes state-of-the-art classrooms, computer labs and an academic support center. All are designed to advance the mission of the Kalmanovitz School of Education, which has trained thousands of California teachers and educational administrators since 1967.
"This is a great moment for Saint Mary's College and an opportunity to assume a leadership role in promoting education in California," said Brother President Ronald Gallagher. "Teaching is a saintly vocation."
School of Education Dean Nancy Sorenson says the new building has filled her and her colleagues with a renewed sense of mission.
"The College and Kalmanovitz Foundation have challenged us to help build up schools and strengthen communities, and we plan to live up to that challenge."
Office of College Communications