KCUSD board approves purchases, celebrates RHS auto program

Kings Canyon Unified School District Board of Trustees conducts regular business, hears from students who are getting hands-on automotive repair education

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Serena Bettis
Published January 26, 2024  • 
10:00 am

REEDLEY – Automotive education, assemblies and ambulatory vehicles were some of the highlights of the Kings Canyon Unified School District’s (KCUSD) most recent meeting of the Board of Trustees. 

The KCUSD board met on Jan. 23 to hear about the work educators are doing around the district and approve a handful of new purchases and action items. The board also heard from students involved in Reedley High School’s (RHS) automotive program and received updates from the board’s student representatives about the latest activities of other area schools. 

Action items discussed at the meeting included purchase agreements for various medical equipment and the approval of the 2022-23 School Accountability Report Cards, which are required by state law to be published each year. 

A more out-of-the-ordinary item approved at the meeting was the district’s agreement with the Marin County Office of Education (MCOE) wherein the district is set to receive $40,000 through a Research-Practice Partnership (RPP). 

According to the agreement, MCOE is the administrative agent acting on behalf of the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE), which is a state agency tasked with assisting local education agencies achieve the goals of their Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAPs). 

“They’re going to study our district and write a report,” KCUSD Superintendent John Campbell said. “It’s kind of like a ‘bright lights’ segment that they put out, and so they’ll be studying our district … and we have to sign an agreement.”

KCUSD will be a subject of research conducted by the CCEE through the Chronic Absenteeism Bright Spots Research Practice Partnership. The district is being compensated for its role in assisting the CCEE’s study of KCUSD’s work to reduce chronic absenteeism. 

As for the purchased medical equipment, this included CPR mannequins used by nursing students, for which KCUSD is being reimbursed by the Valley Regional Occupational Program (Valley ROP). The district also purchased two “ambulatory vehicles” similar in design to a golf cart for approximately $67,500 for use by school nurses and athletic trainers. 

“Those vehicles I believe are for nurses to use (to) pick up ill students — mostly out at the high school — so they can be used by athletic trainers for athletes at their sporting events,” Campbell said. 

Nick Hustedde, the district’s integrated student support coordinator, provided the board with a brief presentation on work the Student Services Department has been doing to support positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) and social-emotional (SEL) through guest speakers and assemblies at KCUSD schools. 

“When we bring students and staff together, what we’re trying to do is first of all support and add to the great things that are going on in our schools,” Hustedde said. 

This school year, Hustedde said students at Reedley and Orange Cove High School heard from youth motivational speaker Carlos Ojeda on the first day of school. Students were encouraged by Ojeda, a former university administrator and professor, to take an active part in their education. 

Fifth through eighth grade students had the chance to listen to Brooks Gibbs talk about emotional resilience after he visited middle school students in KCUSD last year. He also held a “parent institute” night, Hustedde said. 

Elementary school students enjoyed assemblies with motivational speaker Jim “Basketball” Jones who entertained students while teaching them about kindness and perseverance. Hustedde said Jones brought along his son to the assembly as well, which students were especially excited about. 

“We want to cultivate a feeling of togetherness, we want to empower students and parents with information and resources and, in short, we’re really trying to support the district’s mission to help our students attain their highest potential,” Hustedde said.

Reedley automotive program 

KCUSD staff and students involved in the Reedley High School Career Technical Education (CTE) automotive pathway shared their recent accomplishments with the board as well. 

In December 2023, the RHS program received an accreditation from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), an organization that certifies professionals in the automotive repair industry. This means that students who go through the program are receiving qualified, thorough training that will help them get started with careers in the automotive industry. 

Valley ROP Superintendent Fabrizio Lafaro and RHS Principal John Ahlin said this accreditation was a long time coming, and they commended the work of automotive program instructor Gustavo Mendoza for his contributions to receiving the ASE certification. 

Mendoza worked for the Martens Chevrolet dealership as a master mechanic and technician for more than 20 years before joining the staff at RHS, his alma mater. He said that as an ASE-accredited auto shop, RHS has the most up-to-date equipment that is the same quality — if not better — than what is used at a place like Martens. 

“The way we’ve set up the shop is to get the students familiarized with the same tools and equipment they will be using in the industry, so it gives them an advantage to other students or to other hires that the facility hiring them can have the confidence that they have gained certain skills,” Mendoza said. 

Two students in the program shared with the KCUSD board their experience with working on cars, and talked about how the program has helped them work on their own personal vehicles and find a career path they truly enjoy. 

RHS senior Salvador Mendoza spoke about how he was interviewed by TV channel ABC30 for their story on the program’s accreditation in December 2023, which he said was a fun experience. 

“If you guys had a chance to watch it (the interview), I talked about how cars are kind of like legos,” Salvador told the board. “You can take them apart, you can put new parts on … my experience is just a lot of fun; this really takes learning to a new level.”

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter