The year in education featured some new faces, buildings, unrest, money —or lack thereof — and more at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), Long Beach City College (LBCC), and Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD). Here are some of the news stories in education 2016.
All school leaders celebrated the successes of eight years of the Long Beach College Promise with elected officials in late September. The promise began in 2008 and was designed to smooth the transition from high schools to community colleges and universities, extend college to all children in LBUSD, help them complete a degree and/or job training and more.
Among the promise’s highlights in 2016 were a free year of college at LBCC (up from one semester), increased rates of LBUSD seniors enrolling in LBCC and CSULB (88% and 71%, respectively), 900 more pre-school-enrolled children, 3,000 more interns, millions of dollars in scholarships, and more.
"Literally there are zillions of things going on we don't even know about. Hopefully, they're all legal," LBUSD superintendent Chris Steinhauser joked at a citywide promise celebration on Sept. 22.
The promise became a national model, receiving support from President Barack Obama and other political leaders. And Gov. Jerry Brown signed the California College Promise Innovation Grant Program (AB 1741), incentivizing partnerships between local school districts and higher education institutions, similar to Long Beach’s.
One of the first changes was at CSULB, with the naming in January of Dr. Brian Jersky as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. He took the reins from David Dowell, who retired at the end of the 2015-2016 academic year.
Jersky came to CSULB after spending four years as the dean of the College of Science at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Before that, he was a senior lecturer in the statistics department at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, and dean of the School of Science at Saint Mary’s College of California. Jersky also served in various roles at Sonoma State University, such as assistant professor of mathematics, chair of mathematics and director of academic planning and resources in the school of science and technology.
In February, unrest came from the California Faculty Association, representing more than 26,000 tenured and tenure-track faculty at the California State University system and other employees, when they announced a potential April strike.
The CFA was against the CSU’s proposed 2% across the board pay raise, totaling $32.8 million, asking for 5%, or $82 million. CFA also asked for a 1.2% service salary increase equal to $19.7 million, for a grand total of $101.7 million. However, the two reached an agreement in early April, avoiding the strike, with the CSU giving the CFA a 10.5% general salary increase spread throughout the next three years, among other things.
Seeking to help students, CSULB’s Dr. Rashida Crutchfield was commissioned by the CSU chancellor’s office to study students’ food and housing needs system-wide. The first year of studies was presented at a June conference, touting CSULB’s Student Emergency Intervention Program as the most comprehensive among the CSUs.
On a lighter note, CSULB’s Bob Cole Conservatory Chamber Choir was named Choir of the World at its first time competing in the Llangollen, Wales, event in early July.
The school also was one of six nationwide that received the 2016 Active Minds Healthy Campus Award in late August from the nonprofit Active Minds. The award panel cited CSULB’s practices leading to its decision, including campus-wide commitment to at-risk students; outreach to special populations; student addiction recovery program; and exercise as medicine.
In November, a group of CSU students protested a possible tuition hike at the CSU Board of Trustees meetings in Long Beach. The financial report was presented, but no action taken, as it regarded the 2017-18 Support Budget Request to the state.
In December, CSULB became the third in the CSU system to create an endowed dean position after receiving a $2.3 million anonymous donation. The position at the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics is the first at the school.
The college got an upgrade in February with the grand opening of its new student services center at the Pacific Coast Campus. The $23.4 million, 38,555-square-foot building includes admissions and records, financial aid and more. It was paid for by Measure E bonds, passed in 2002 and 2008.
The school had another upgrade in March, with the renovation of Building C, which houses the nursing program. The $11.65 million, 23,250-square-foot building was paid by Measure E money and was the first overhaul of the 45-year-old building.
An election in April brought a new face, with Vivian Malauulu winning the LBCC Area 2 trustee seat over Irma Archuleta, who’d been appointed to finish Roberto Uranga’s term. In the Area 4 spot, incumbent Doug Otto won over Davina Keiser again. She’d battled Otto four years ago.
Malauulu said she wanted to LBCC provide resources for students to keep them from falling through the cracks, including adding vocational classes at LBCC. She also cited faculty pay as a concern.
Otto was elected to the LBCC board of trustees in 2004 and has served three terms as its president. He also was elected to the statewide California Community College Trustees board of directors. He said he wants to increase access to and offerings of the Long Beach College Promise.
LBCC had another item on ballots in June with Measure LB, providing $850 million from property tax bonds for capital improvements. The bond passed, surpassing the 55% majority. The money was estimated to cost taxpayers up to $25 per $100,000 of assessed value once all the bonds were issued and would pay for items such as new and/or improved classrooms.
Also in June, the school got a visit from Hillary Clinton, who was drumming up support for her run for president against Donald Trump. The stop was her final public appearance before the California primary. At the campaign rally, attendees were hopeful she would become the presidential Democratic nominee, which she did, but she later lost the presidential race to Trump.
Another famous face came to the school in June, although more permanently, with three-time Olympic gold medalist Misty May-Treanor chosen as its new director of volleyball operations.
In July, LBCC District Superintendent-President Eloy Ortiz Oakley was named chancellor of the California Community Colleges (CCC) board of governors. He began duties on Dec. 19.
"Ultimately, the things we've accomplished in Long Beach likely were a big driver for the decision," Oakley said.
In April, the Board of Education President Felton Williams and Vice President Jon Meyer kept their seats, with Williams beating Jessica Vargas-Alvarez and Meyer defeating Rosi A. Pedersen.
Also in April, seven LBUSD schools ranked among the best in the U.S. by The Washington Post. The ranking lists schools in the top 10% of the approximately 22,000 public high schools in terms of their ability to offer college preparatory instruction. Each LBUSD school has appeared repeatedly on the Post’s annual ranking. The schools were: California Academy of Mathematics and Science (820), Millikan (869), Wilson (949), Poly (1,024), Lakewood (1,435), Renaissance (1,519), and Avalon (1,928).
Another high for LBUSD came in April, with the number of AP tests up 82% in four years, with a record 13,252 Advanced Placement college-level exams taken. The one-year increase was 27% and officials touted concerted efforts to boost access to AP courses and tests as to why numbers rose. The district covered much of the cost for families — tests cost about $92, but students paid about $5 for an unlimited number of exams. Each exam had a $15 deposit, with a $10 rebate after the test. The costs were paid by the state’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which provides more flexibility how some state money is used by local schools.
The district renamed several schools effective Aug. 1, including International Elementary to Jenny Oropeza, Robert E. Lee Elementary to Olivia Herrera, and Mary Butler Middle to Mary Butler Early College.
In August, Jordan High announced it would open three new buildings in time for students to inhabit them after winter break. The school was in construction as part of a seven-year, $143.8 million renovation being coordinated while students attended classes. The entire project’s expected completion is 2021.
Cafeterias saw a menu change in October, with more nutritious options added.
In November LBUSD received support from voters, who passed a $1.5 billion bond — Measure E — which officials said would pay for expanding air conditioning to all schools and other infrastructure upgrades. The measure allows district officials to sell $1.5 billion worth of bonds. It won with 74.86% of the vote.
Westerly School, a nonsecular private institution on East 29th Street, added 18,000 square feet to its campus. Students began classes in classrooms surrounding a courtyard rather than “temporary” 20-some-year-old bungalows. Construction began in May 2015 and cost $6 million.
Emily Thornton can be reached at email@example.com.