Press Release - SMCOE Responds to Civil Grand Jury Report

For Immediate Release – July 9, 2015 – No. 16

San Mateo County Office of Education Responds to Civil Grand Jury Report on Incarcerated Youth

REDWOOD CITY, CA – July 9, 2015 – The 2014-15 San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury has released a report addressing whether the San Mateo County Office of Education (SMCOE) is adequately educating its incarcerated youth. The report explains that the San Mateo County Office of Education is responsible for educating juveniles while they are incarcerated in County facilities. While the report concludes that the COE has a well-managed Juvenile Court Schools Program, the Grand Jury expressed concern regarding the limited use of online instruction, the transfer of academic credits, and the process of releasing students from detention.

In response to the report, County Superintendent of Schools Anne E. Campbell stated, "I appreciate the thorough nature of the Grand Jury's report and its commitment to the educational needs of San Mateo County's incarcerated youth. We will carefully consider the Grand Jury's recommendations as we work to improve our educational program. Our Court School students are among the most at-risk students in our county, and we want to ensure their educational needs are effectively addressed while they are incarcerated."

San Mateo County Board President Beverly Gerard commented, "I want to thank the Grand Jury for devoting its attention to a vitally important topic and for providing its recommendations for ways the Court Schools can better serve students. I was pleased the Grand Jury noted that the Court School Program is well managed by a team of experienced and caring teachers and administrators. I look forward to discussing the report with my colleagues at our August County Board meeting."

The report expresses concern with the limited use of computers and online instruction in the Court Schools. Associate Superintendent Nancy Magee responded by noting the County Office is in the midst of an ambitious expansion of online learning in the Court Schools and has been working with Mastery Design Collaborative to customize a personalized learning curriculum for the Court Schools. Ms. Magee stated, "There are challenges specific to educating incarcerated youth, including the length of incarceration and varying academic skills, and online programs provide a terrific way for students to be more self-directed in their learning." Access to these programs requires a high level of connectivity, which has historically been a challenge for more rural locations, such as Camp Glenwood. However, SMCOE recently received a Broadband Infrastructure Improvement Grant (BIIG), which will provide more rapid and reliable connectivity for students at Camp Glenwood.

The report also expresses concern about the process by which students transition back into the community. The County Office agrees that students should be placed in school as quickly as possible after their release and will continue to work with Probation, Behavioral Health, partner school districts, and parents to ensure that this process happens in a timely and effective manner. The County Office is also working to develop transition plans prior to students being released from detention to ensure that every involved party is prepared for the transfer. "All the key stakeholders are working very hard to develop a more effective system to support students as they transition back News Release to their home schools," said Associate Superintendent of Student Services Nancy Magee. "We anticipate a more comprehensive process will be in place soon."

Additionally, the report highlights the fact that academic credits earned by students while incarcerated may not always transfer accurately to the student's district school. This isn't unique to court schools, as even schools within the same district may interpret credits differently. However, SMCOE remains committed to assisting schools and students with the transfer process. The County Office is currently working on obtaining accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), which would also help students earn appropriate credits for entry into college.

Despite these challenges, the County Office will continue to work with all of the agencies involved with the Court Schools Program to ensure that San Mateo County's incarcerated students receive the highest quality education and can easily re-integrate into their communities.

####

For more information, contact:

Allie Jaarsma

Public Communications Specialist

Office of the Superintendent

ajaarsma@smcoe.org

650.802.5559