County superintendent talks state of schools

cpride@losbanosenterprise.comMarch 7, 2014 

In his third annual education report last week, Steve Gomes outlined new state standards and a revamped funding formula that has resulted in more money for education, all while stressing . opportunities.

Gomes, Merced County superintendent, used himself as an example of what can be done through education. He said his grandmother packed sardines, but through opportunity and education her grandson became leader of the county’s schools.

“I think that story is common in the Central Valley,” Gomes said. “I had opportunities growing up here, and what drives me is we are trying hard to provide those opportunities for kids.”

Gomes said 70 percent of the students at UC Merced are the first members of their family to go to college.

Gomes’ presentation was delivered in Los Banos on Feb. 28 to about 100 residents, elected officials and educators. Merced County has 56,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade and 14,000 youngsters in preschool programs.

School districts in the county spend $440 million a year on education and generate $660 million in revenue, Gomes said. Merced County benefits from California’s new Local Control Funding Formula, which provides additional dollars to districts with a high number of English learners and students eligible for the free lunch program.

He spoke about the new Common Core State Standards and their link with technological advancements in the classroom.

“Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple computers, he said, ‘Older people sit down at a computer and they ask what is this? Younger people sit down and say what can I do with this?’ ” Gomes said.

Common Core, which blends several disciplines and eliminates multiple choice testing, has come with $1 billion in state funding for classroom upgrades such as iPads and wireless capabilities.

Gomes emphasized the importance of technology by asking the audience how many of them own Smartphones. He said tomorrow’s technological advances will come from today’s students.

Gomes showed a video of him and his staff peforming a version of “I Can,” by Nas. The song encourages children to work hard and aspire for more.

In addition to Gomes’ speech, the luncheon also included a performance by the Los Banos High School chamber singers and a speech on ag economics by Atwater High School student Makala Navarro.

Gomes, who also gave the education report in Merced last week, joked that he had too many relatives in Gustine to ignore the Westside. He then added that he believes it is important that his office is able to stay connected with the entire county.

Reporter Corey Pride can be reached at (209) 826-3831 ext. 6563 or by email at cpride@losbanosenterprise.com

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