MCHS reduces admittance
Published: Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 15:03
In a district flooded with underachieving schools that continue to be shortchanged by a deflated budget, West Contra Costa Unified School District's highest performing institution will be forced to downsize and adopt the admittance rate of some of the nation's most elite universities.
In the coming year, more than 400 prospective freshmen will apply for Middle College High School, an alternative high school hosted at Contra Costa College, but less than 10 percent will be accepted. That's just 40 students, halving last year's ninth grade enrollment of 80.
"I'm sad that they are reducing the number of students admitted, and the fact is whether it's 80 or 40, (more than) 400 students are still applying and there are going to be rejections," said Brandon Amargo, Governing Board Student Trustee and MCHS Senior." I just hope those 40 students will take advantage of what Middle College has to offer."
Additionally, statewide budget cuts and the expiration of a six-year federal grant will relinquish the position of vice principal, displace one of the 11 MCHS teachers and reduce the number of days counseling will be available from three to two.
"We will be gutted by taking away the administrative staff. We want to maintain our high standing and the awards we win because of the staff that we have now. It's a shame," Vice Principal Jennifer Crowell said.
In 2006, MCHS was nationally recognized by the US Department of Education as one of fewer than 300 Blue Ribbon schools, an honor given to both public and private K-12 schools nationwide that demonstrate superior academics or strides in achievement.
Integrating college classes into a highly monitored high school environment, MCHS boasts a CAHSEE pass rate of nearly 100 percent, more than 20 percent higher than any local public high school.
Furthermore, MCHS has an Academic Performance Index (API), an integrated figure assessing student learning, of 852 — the highest in the district.
Crowell attributes much of this success to the students' exposure to college-level courses and their willingness to learn, but not necessarily to their abilities beforehand.
She said students of all performance levels are accepted in and that MCHS aims "to reach the student who has the potential, but doesn't have the support or background to succeed."
"(MCHS) is about picking out students who wouldn't normally succeed in a traditional high school environment. You may start out here as a B or C student and end up an A student. It's a combination of low and high performing students, and through this we succeed," Amargo said.
Serving more than 300 students, the loss of Crowell's position and a day of counseling with counselor Michelle Hart will leave a void in student services and general guidance at MCHS.
Some worry these changes may threaten the school's structure and future academic excellence.
"If they do proceed (with the cuts), this school will fall apart. It doesn't make any sense. There is no rationale or logic. We need a stronger administration to lead our school," Amargo said.
"It kind of worries me about the future of Middle College," MCHS senior Ja'Shawn Fields Jr. said.
However, college President McKinley Williams said the school will continue its exemplary performance regardless.
"They're going to have some cutbacks on staff, but the quality of instruction won't change," he said.
But some said the accessibility and work efforts of Crowell will not easily be replaced, and could be too much for remaining staff to handle.
"(Vice Principal Crowell) does a little bit of everything. If she's gone our counselor would surely be overwhelmed. You can't do that work with one person working two days a week," Amargo said.
Crowell did not challenge the elimination of her position, but instead expressed concern for students and faculty.
"(I understand the situation), but at the same time it does not negate the fact that I'm needed here. I'm an integral part here at this school. It's like chopping off a leg," Crowell said.
Inevitably though, the work must continue to be done, and would likely fall upon Principal Hattie Smith, students said.
"We're only human. (Principal Smith) can't do everything. And without the staff to help, it will be rather difficult," Fields Jr. said.
There remains a chance for MCHS to retain some of its services, Williams said, dependent upon the approval of Gov. Jerry Brown's tax extension and the June special election ballot.
According to a report released by WCCUSD on March 2, if Brown's cuts plan is accepted by legislators and the tax extension is passed by voters, the district could minimize damage to a $19 per pupil loss. But if Brown's cuts aren't approved and if voters shoot down the five-year tax extension, the district could stand to lose $330 to $800 per pupil.