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Orcutt Schools Update
2023-2024 a Productive
School Year for Orcutt Schools

Dr. Holly Edds, Superintendent, OUSD

          Orcutt Union School District history was made on May 20 with the official grand opening of Orcutt Academy High School’s new Multi-Use/Gymnasium Building.

           Students, parents, staff, and community members filled the bleachers of the facility to witness remarks by district and school dignitaries and a series of “firsts”: the building’s first band concert, first choir set sung, first basket made, first volleyball serve, and first drama performance. Board President Lisa Morinini and other speakers thanked and credited district voters for the new building – Measure G, the bond measure approved in November 2016, provided most of the funding for project. Afterward, attendees were delighted to tour the structure in anticipation of putting it to full use in the year to come.

             The debut of the new MU/Gym Building was but one of numerous developments in a most productive school year. Following are some other highlights as we look back on 2023-2024:

           A new strategic plan. With input from interest holders ranging from students to members of the community, the district took time from August through February to craft a new strategic plan that provides a guiding vision for the next five years. The district now has new goals pertinent to three “pillars”: student learning and preparedness, outreach and partnership, and district development and performance. To give the new plan a direct role in shaping the future, five of its six goals were embedded in Orcutt’s new Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP).

           Student attendance. Overall student attendance has increased from last school year, and chronic absenteeism (students who miss 10% or more of school days) has dropped considerably. The districtwide rate of chronic absenteeism has declined from 23.3% in 2022-2023 to 11.6% this year, and we expect even more improvement in the coming year.

           Emergency preparedness. The district prioritized emergency preparedness, as all employees – teachers, classified employees, and administrators – were trained in the Standard Response Protocol for responding to emergencies. A pair of professional development days were devoted to critical issues in school safety, including responding to active assailants. The district established a leadership team on school safety to guide these efforts moving forward.

          Community partnerships. Orcutt is blessed with some strong community partnerships that benefited students. To cite three examples: The Santa Maria Valley YMCA continued to support swim/aquatic safety lessons for fourth graders; the California Army National Guard took over the DARE Program for sixth graders; and MOVE Santa Barbara County provided bicycle education to students at several elementary schools. We look forward to adding more partnerships in 2024-2025.

          Enthusiasm for the arts. The Orcutt Children's Arts Foundation (OCAF) continued to invite support for the arts. For the first time, the annual Old Town Orcutt Chalk Festival was the product of four Orcutt-based organizations working together: OCAF, Orcutt Area Seniors in Service (OASIS), the Old Orcutt Merchants Association (OOMA), and the Old Town Orcutt Revitalization Association (OTORA). On its October 7 date the Chalk Festival drew a huge turnout of students and families for a community celebration of chalk art, music, dancing, and the arts in general. The OCAF Gala fundraiser, held in March, also was successful.

          CTE. OAHS continued to make strides with programming in Career and Technical Education (CTE). Its computer science pathway added a gateway course, Introduction to Computer Science, that leads to subsequent courses in Computer Science Principles and Cybersecurity. The school's performing arts pathway is thriving, with students performing three plays during the school year. Two education courses, Exploring Teaching and Child Growth & Development, have been converted into a child development pathway. And OAHS will launch a health career pathway in 2024-2025 thanks to a partnership with Allan Hancock College. To give uplift to all of these efforts, OAHS just landed a $679,000 Golden State Pathways Program grant from the California Department of Education.

          School culture. Annual surveys on school culture showed parents largely are satisfied with their school's responsiveness and opportunities for involvement. Eight of 10 schools had over 80% of parents respond “agree” or “strongly agree” to the prompts "If I have a problem or concern, I have someone at school I can talk to" and "Parents feel welcome to be involved in the school." This is the kind of caring, inviting campus culture our district seeks!

           Heartfelt thanks to everyone associated with the Orcutt Union School District for a fruitful 2023-2024 school year.  Here’s wishing all of you a fabulous summer.

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