REEDLEY – Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD) is making its mark on California, bringing in the unique voice of the Central Valley to statewide education conversations.
KCUSD Superintendent John Campbell was recently appointed to the advisory council for the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE), where he will work with other district and county superintendents to ensure educators have a say in state legislation. Campbell said he is excited for the opportunity to share Kings Canyon’s successes with other districts and represent the valley.
“I was very flattered and honored and thought it would be a great opportunity for Kings Canyon to have a seat at the table at the state level … (and) for having our voice here in the area represented,” Campbell said.
CCEE is an organization created by the state legislature in 2013 that advises and assists school districts, charter schools and county offices of education (COEs) on how to achieve their goals outlined in their Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAP), according to the CCEE website.
The CCEE Advisory Council is made up of a county superintendent of education and a school district superintendent from 11 geographic regions. CCEE Executive Director Matt Navo said the organization selects advisory council representatives based on who they believe would “best represent the communal voice” of their region.
Navo said the advisory council’s job is to advise the CCEE on the work they do and to weigh in on and help influence policy and legislative conversation from a local perspective.
Campbell was asked to be the superintendent for the region including Merced, Mariposa, Madera, Fresno, Tulare and Kings counties in June, and has already assumed a leadership role in helping influence state policy related to chronic absenteeism, Navo said.
A significant issue currently facing California school districts, chronic absenteeism is defined by the state as a student missing at least 10% of the instructional days they were enrolled in. Navo said that the CCEE Advisory Council recently met with the State Board of Education executive chair to discuss chronic absenteeism, a conversation Campbell was instrumental in because KCUSD has one of the lowest chronic absenteeism rates in the state.
“Kings Canyon is outpacing many districts across the state … and you see it in their data,” Navo said. “They’re doing something right, and we want John’s voice on that advisory panel to represent what is being done.”
For Campbell, representing KCUSD and the six counties of his region means that the Valley area will have representation of its thoughts and input into issues, he said.
“We’re quite unique in many ways here in the Central Valley and we’re sometimes left without a voice,” Campbell said. “I think part of the reason it’s important (the advisory council) is that we give that unique Central Valley flavor to the discussion going on at the state level.”
Campbell said that at the most recent advisory council meeting in August, they were discussing how to take advantage of new innovations from the COVID-19 pandemic related to online learning improvements. He brought up how KCUSD and other Valley school districts led the way in the state to get kids back in the classroom because they believe that is the best thing for their students.
“I wanted to make sure the voice was heard that we believe that we need the kids in front of their teachers … (because) that’s the best place for students,” Campbell said. “In that instance, that wasn’t mentioned until that point. The focus (of the discussion) was on providing a good online education.”
CCEE gives KCUSD the opportunity to be in the legislative conversation and reach people like the State Board of Education executive chair Linda Darling-Hammond, “so when (education) policy is put down by the state legislature and the governor … they’ve been made aware of our concerns and our unique needs and ideas in this area,” Campbell said.
While KCUSD can bring an important perspective to CCEE, KCUSD can also benefit from Campbell’s position on the CCEE Advisory Council. He said CCEE produces a lot of good work and conducts studies that KCUSD can always learn from. Additionally, being a part of a network of other district leaders will allow KCUSD to share their own best practices and adopt others.
“We have some outstanding results in our district,” Campbell said. “When you put similar schools together, we come out number one in so many ranks, … but there’s always things we can also learn.”