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Susan Salcido

Susan Salcido

April is Public Schools Month, which provides a great opportunity to recognize the vital job our schools fill in local communities and the nation at large.

Free, universal public education was the innovative and brilliant concept that set our young country apart from virtually all others. The idea was based on the notion that providing all children with the tools to read, write and understand their duties in a democracy would result in an educated workforce and electorate, enabling our country to thrive. This value became the foundation for building the mightiest country on Earth.

Let’s not forget these deep roots and how they have continued to nourish us through success and adversity.

Schools face new challenges daily that bring with them opportunities to address the needs of our students. Here in Santa Barbara County we have faced dire natural emergency situations that have impacted our schools and our young people. Across the nation, schools have faced life-threatening safety issues.

It is important for schools to help students get through these crises, while continuing to focus on the social and emotional health of our young people, their academic growth and their readiness for life after high school, whether that means employment or higher education.

We know public schools cannot do this alone. Partnerships with staff, parents, neighbors, the business community, government agencies, and nonprofits are vital to schools’ success.

Our local PTAs have a long, distinguished history of making invaluable contributions at schools throughout the county.

The county’s Department of Behavioral Wellness, whose focus is resiliency and recovery, has done so much in the wake of recent disasters to improve the quality of life for the people they serve. Just Communities Central Coast works diligently to advance student equity in our diverse and dynamic county. These are just three examples that speak to the unflinching support and creative thinking of a community that prioritizes nurturing and educating its children.

Together, we also need to support and celebrate the professionals who make schools such remarkable places for students to grow and learn. For example, non-teaching staff from county schools were just recognized as the Santa Barbara County Classified Staff Members of the Year, and next month our office will name the Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year. These individuals are shining representatives of all the skilled and caring professionals who staff our schools and classrooms.

The evidence of these professionals’ success is especially clear this time of year, as students prepare to attend our award-winning community colleges or weigh their myriad acceptances from universities near and far. Others prepare to take the solemn oath of enlistment in service to our country, or excitedly put the finishing touches on their preparation to enter a dynamic workforce.

Our students are reaching new heights and blazing new trails in our classrooms and beyond every day. They are partnering with local businesses and nonprofits to build houses. They offer tax assistance to underserved communities. They develop emerging technologies for farming and agriculture applications. They are creating nonprofit organizations that help combat poverty and food insecurity. They run film festivals and put on dance performances that celebrate their rich cultural heritage.

If someone wants assurances about the strength of Santa Barbara County, they need only inquire at their local schools, the hubs of our community.

When we consider all that our students are accomplishing, and all that the supporters in our community do to unlock students’ potential, the theme for this year’s Public Schools Month seems especially appropriate — “Together we make a profound difference for public education.” We thank our partners for the profound difference each makes in contributing to our youth, teachers, and schools countywide.

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Susan Salcido is Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools.

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