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Madera Unified School District celebrates as teachers protest

Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune

Madera South High HOSA students give a demonstration during the “We Believe Conference hosted by Madera Unified School District.


Madera Unified School District had every right to be proud Thursday evening as it held its 2nd annual “We Believe Conference” at the Madera Office of Education; however, attendance at the event was off a bit.

Although hundreds showed up Thursday evening, more than half of them remained outside the building. Six hundred members of the Madera Unified Teachers Association took the opportunity to make their case by marching around the parking lot carrying signs of protest over the status of contract negotiations between the Madera Unified Teachers Association and Madera Unified School District.

Inside the building, however, attention was focused on some of the highlights of the MUSD school year.

Prior to the official program, guests enjoyed hors d’oeuvres while visiting the expo of Arts and Athletics achievements representing some of MUSD’s proudest moments in 2018-19.

Earlier that very day, Madera South High School won the Grand Champion trophy in the Career Skills Challenge hosted by the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools and Fresno City College, and within hours that championship trophy was sitting on the display table at the Career Technical Education booth at the conference.

It was the first time that Madera Unified had won the prestigious competition, which included more than 1500 students from 43 different career categories. Madera South won the Yosemite Division for Large Schools as well as the Grand Championship for the entire event.

Kristin McKenna, Madera’s director of college and career readiness could hardly contain her enthusiasm as she explained to conference participants the significance of the Madera victory. “This would not have been possible without the collaboration of all of our CTE teachers and their high expectations of their students,” intoned McKenna. “We are incredibly proud of our teachers and students,” she said.

Another notable display Thursday evening included the past and the present. Students from the Madera South Theatre Company and their leader, drama teacher Ginger Latimer, provided a panorama of productions performed by MSTC.

The MSTC presents two performances each year: a play in the fall and a musical in the spring. Latimer has led 27 productions of each category during her tenure with Madera Unified.

In addition, Latimer’s students perform a traveling show for elementary students and several one-act plays.

At 6:00, Master of Ceremonies, MUSD Deputy Superintendent Sandon Schwartz, began the program by introducing Madera Unified trustees Brent Fernandes, Joetta Flores Fleak, Lucy Salazar and County Superintendent of Schools Cecelia Massetti. They were followed by Board President Ray Seibert who welcomed the audience.

Madera Unified Athletic Director Marty Bitter followed by presenting awards to Madera South’s Boys Soccer team, which recently won the State Soccer Championship.

Additional MUSD achievements recognized were the Madera High Madtown Robotics victory in the Central Valley Regional competition (The team is scheduled to compete in the World Championship in Houston.); Madera South’s 2nd place finish in the Madera County Mock Trial competition; Outstanding Awards won by Josiah Bustos, Aunika Bull, and Jatzelle Salazar at the Fresno City College Theater Festival; and the MSHS Chamber Singers for their Superior rating at the California Music Educators Association Choral Festival (Their 283 out of 300 score was their highest ever).

The highlight of the evening’s presentations came from two students: Savannah Garcia, a Madera South High School senior and Stephen Reed, a senior at Madera High School. Both speakers elaborated on the theme of the conference, “Having a Growth Mindset.”

Garcia and Reed are top students at their respective schools, having attained the highest scores in the district based on GPA, State Assessment scores, SAT scores, AP scores, and other district measures.

Garcia recently signed a letter of intent with Drexel University. In doing so, she became the first MSHS softball player to sign with a college. She has also been involved in golf, tennis, cross country, soccer, and track.

Reed has been involved in multiple school sports, sang in the choir, had a solo performance in two high school musicals and is involved in Robotics. He plans to attend a UC or CSU college.

Both Garcia and Reed were obvious favorites of the audience as well.

Madera Unified Superintendent Todd Lile rounded out the program by adding his thoughts to the theme of the conference, having a Growth Mindset.

With his inimitable passion, Lile shared his belief that having a growth mindset “leads to a desire to learn and a tendency to embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, see effort as the path to mastery, learn from criticism, and find lessons and inspiration in the success of others.

In a moment of magnanimity, Lile praised the teachers who were outside marching in protest. He affirmed his belief in their abilities and concern for their students.

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