This article appeared in the November 18th issue of the West Sacramento News-Ledger (external link). It should be at their website soon in an extended form, with a question and answer session conducted by editor Monica Stark.
The Yolo Education Center: Helping Students Achieve Success
by Thomas Farley
The new Principal at West Sacramento’s Yolo Education Center is Alejandro Ramos. Everything indicates that he is changing learning and lives for the better. Allen Young, a Center educator, says that Yolo Ed was once a battlefield of gang culture but that has changed under the leadership of Ramos. He also says the Center has received six-year accreditation and recent recognition from Yolo County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Jesse Ortiz.
Four schools make up The Yolo Education Center: Yolo Continuation High School Grades 10-12, Evergreen Opportunity Middle School grades 7-9, Evergreen Opportunity Elementary grades 4-6, and the Washington Adult School. All four help students who may have had trouble learning in traditional schools. Principal Ramos explains some of the differences between traditional and alternative schools:
“I think one of the biggest differences with alternative schools is that we are able to meet kids where they are at, build on that strength, and take a holistic approach to learning. We have the flexibility to be different; we’re not as scripted as a traditional school. We tailor the educational environment to take in the needs of the kids. Students come with a variety of needs and we’re able to work with them, support them, and get them to engage. The primary goal is for us to teach kids they can be successful.”
The entire Center staff is focused on success. Staff meetings include everyone from the Principal to janitorial employees. All Yolo Education personnel keep a friendly and concerned attention on every student, communicating concerns between each other whenever necessary. The Yolo High students I talked to did not mind this monitoring, indeed, they seemed to favor it.
Senior Tanya Alvarez explained the difference in learning at Yolo Ed. “I think we have more communication with our teachers because of the smaller classes. Teachers pay more attention to each of us.” Another two-year student of Yolo Ed, James, comments, “I like this school a lot better. Smaller, better atmosphere.” That atmosphere is not accidental. Behavior like bullying or ridicule are not tolerated, they are contrary to what everyone at Yolo Education is trying to achieve.
Educator Young explains the Center’s new culture. “A culture of family. In many cases these are students that have been marginalized throughout the district, their environment, or the community. In many cases this could be their only stable environment. We want an atmosphere of family, we want to make sure that this is their safe haven, and I think Principal Ramos has done a great job of doing that in the last year of change.”
Continuation school perception is also changing. Young stresses that there is no longer any stigma attached to such a designation, that every student going through Yolo Ed is as academically qualified as anyone going through, say, River City High School. And that their graduation certificates read simply Yolo High School, without any disparaging wording.
With such progress made in such a short time, West Sacramento should eagerly look forward to what Ramos’ staff and students produce in the coming years. Certainly better learning, certainly better lives.
Bottom photo: Alejandro Ramos on the right, Allen Young on the left.