Mr. Albert Garibaldi, Superintendent: Banta School District
First of all, let me congratulate you on the success of Banta Elementary School District’s charter with the River Island Technology Academy in Lathrop. I have been involved in education for 16 years and have never witnessed the birth of such an ambitious undertaking. Under the leadership of Susan Dell’Osso (Board of Trustee’s President for the River Island Technology Academy ) and Brenda Scholl (Principal of the River Islands Technology Academy) not only has River Islands Technology Academy lived up to all of the hype surrounding its establishment, it, quite frankly, has exceeded all of my high expectations. I am certain that if the Banta School District does not derail its progress, River Islands Technology Academy will be your school district’s greatest educational achievement in its 134 year history.
I am addressing this open letter to you because I have noticed some recent events which lead me to believe that the Banta School District is having a change of heart about its involvement with the River Islands Technology Academy. To put it bluntly, both recent newspaper articles and board meeting minutes seem to suggest that the Banta School District has decided to constrict the future growth of the River Islands Technology Academy in order to pursue a Banta controlled science academy at the same school site[i]. Because River Islands Technology Academy is just in its first year, these recent revelations have caused concern that the Banta School District is playing bait and switch politics with the future of several hundred local school children. I am not sure if this was the original undisclosed agenda or if this is a change of direction taken simply on the advice of Tom Duffy. Regardless, I am personally offended that River Island Technology Academy was marketed to hundreds of local families without mention that the Banta Elementary School District planned on taking over the school site as early as 2015.
While it is refreshing to see that a school district has promoted one of its own teachers to the position of Superintendent, suggesting that the Banta Elementary School District is making the education of its students its top priority, the recent planned rapid expansion appears to have shifted the intentions of the Banta District from quality education to what is now the “big business of education.” Your current position as Superintendent during the coming period of unprecedented growth will undoubtedly be the star achievement on your resume. However, rather than simply collect accolades for the Banta School District’s growth, as an educator, I would think, that you would like to see the overall quality of Banta’s education improve during your tenure.
A quick check of the facts shows that your district is lagging behind the California average in math scores. In fact, in 2013, only 16% of your district’s sixth graders tested at a proficient level in math[ii]. I worry that adding eight new schools to your district before test scores improve may magnify the math proficiency crisis that Banta is facing. Instead of being known as the Superintendent who established an unprecedented growth in the business for your district, you are risking becoming the Superintendent who failed to address the achievement gap of your students. If Banta’s expansion is done too quickly and without regard for educational standards, the Banta School District risks winning the race to the bottom of troubled school districts.
Because you are not new to education or politics, you must know that discord between your school board and the board of trustees for River Islands Technology will ultimately hurt all of the children under your influence. Luckily, there are many individuals in the community willing to help you avoid catastrophe on your journey as the new Superintendent of Banta School District. You have a locale that has members who are highly experienced in education and want to see your district succeed. I wish to offer my support to both the River Island Technology Academy’s Board of Trustees as well as the Banta Elementary School District’s board.
Study after study has shown that having children play chess regularly increases their proficiency at math. Currently, my chess academy offers chess to hundreds of children and the schools where we regularly teach at score above 97% in proficiency for math[iii]. I will personally see to it that every sixth grader in your district receives special chess training geared toward improving math skills. I have 16 years of experience in this field and will offer this service free of charge to your district for four years. All I ask for in return, is that the Banta School District continue to allow River Islands Technology Academy to remain at its original school site. Basically, if you live up to your publicly stated objective for River Islands Technology Academy[iv] , I will help you increase your students’ math scores and help Banta to become a top district in scores as well as size.
President of the Torres Chess and Music Academy