State of the District Highlights

Continued academic improvement by students highlights Hughson leader’s State of the District speech
Posted on 05/02/2022
Brenda Speaking

Two years after the pandemic interrupted in-person instruction and forced teachers to lead classes via computer, Hughson students continue to show measurable academic progress thanks to aggressive and intentional intervention systems put into place to help them.


That was the key message delivered Thursday by Hughson Unified Superintendent Brenda Smith, who shared her assessment during her fourth State of the District speech before staff, school board trustees, parents and community members at Reeder Hall on the Hughson High campus.


There are multiple ways to calculate students’ success and resiliency, Smith said, but one of the most important in the past year as been their performance in reading and math on the iReady diagnostic tests the district gives three times a year. Scores have consistently risen at Hughson and Fox Road elementary schools, Ross Middle School and Hughson High.


“We are moving in the right direction at all of our sites,” Smith said. “We know that we will be dealing with the impacts of distance learning for the next decade.”


The superintendent credited the skill of the teaching staff as well as intervention programs at all campuses put into place after students returned to in-person learning last year. The interventions were intended to identify students struggling in a particular area and build in one-on-one time with teachers and paraprofessionals to help them catch up.


“One of our concerns during the pandemic with the need to have our classes through distance learning was that our students were missing out on in-person learning, where we know the best instruction and connection to learning takes place,” Smith said. “We knew that we would need to have a system in place where we could look at the data and be strategic with our interventions and instruction to fill in any gaps that our students were experiencing.”


She also credited mental health assistance that the district received free of charge thanks to grants from Legacy Health Endowment, the Stanislaus County Office of Education and Seity Health for helping students as well as staff cope with the wide-ranging effects of the pandemic. Smith also praised Hazel Health and Hazel Heart for providing free telehealth services for students.


Beyond test results, Smith highlighted an impressive range of student achievement  – from high finishes in the Academic Decathlon (for high school students), Academic Pentathlon (for middle school students) and Occupational Olympics to individual and team athletic championships, and FFA awards.


Also singled out were Hughson instructors nominated for the countywide Teacher of the Year awards – Jamie Mankins (HES), Janette Schmidt (Fox Road), Adriana Rodrigues (Ross) and Jack Bland (HHS). Jodie Smith of Fox Road also was recognized for her nomination as the countywide Classified Employee of the Year.


Financially, the district is in very good shape, Smith shared. Hughson Unified has a budget reserve of more than 16%, well more than the state-required 3%. Enrollment is up to 2,066 students, 16 more than the previous year. Hughson High – with 800 students – is at its all-time high. District enrollment has grown in three of the past four years, said Smith, noting that Hughson continues to attract students from nearby districts.


“We are proud of the fact that we have 98 more students from other communities who come to Hughson than we have Hughson students leaving for other districts,” Smith said. “That is a testament to the fact that our small schools offer big opportunities for our students.”


Despite the pandemic, the district was able to complete a number of facility upgrades in the past year, including a new media center and after-school office at Fox Road, conversion of the old after-school room into the district business office, classroom and other improvements on four campuses, and the addition of charging stations at the transportation yard to serve the four new electric buses the district added (thanks to a $1.6 million state grant).


Looking ahead, Smith reminded everyone that classes will begin and end 30 minutes later in the next school year because of a new state law, which will impact before- and after-school programs. She also said the transitional kindergarten program will be expanded, more building upgrades are planned at the high school to create additional classroom space and that there will be more made-from-scratch menu options in all of the district’s  cafeterias.

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