Madera Unified invests in ‘student champion’ program


For The Madera Tribune

Madera Unified School District Superintendent Todd Lile.

 

In August, Madera Unified began the school year with a challenge for all of its employees: “Burn down the old; rise with the new.”


At their regular meeting this week, the school board and the administration stepped up to the plate and put their money where their mouths were.


They voted unanimously to invest several thousand dollars in their “student champion” effort. As a result, in December each contracted Madera Unified employee, certificated and classified, will receive a stipend of $5,000.


The “student champion” motto emerged in the classes that were held in August with all of the district’s employees. Along with the new aphorism came the not-so-subtle message that the district is going to trash the old shibboleths of the past and deal with the vexing and intractable problems of the present in a fresh way by encouraging all employees to be student champions who inspire young learners to become “gold medalists” in their pursuit of an education.


The school board and district leaders are asking the employees to work to be “a Phoenix,” after the image of the bird in Greek mythology that could be regenerated or reborn from the ashes of its predecessor. The challenge for everyone, including trustees, is to make the students more successful and to help them believe in themselves.


As a result, a movement is rolling across the school district in which its student champions are effecting change with the following strategies:


• Collaboratively planning relevant, challenging, and creative lessons;


• Developing intrinsic motivation through curiosity, creativity, and choice;


• Intentionally engaging classrooms in active learning;


• Developing strong civic engagement through service learning;


• Promoting the highest student achievement in all areas;


• Creating an orderly learning environment with dynamic school cultures;


• Maintaining a financially sound and effective district organization.


The investment in the building of student champions came at the juncture of two factors, one negative and the other positive.


First, the entire nation is facing record educational staffing shortages, and second, the governor’s May revision of his budget included significant increases for schools.


Thus, the district was able to demonstrate its confidence and gratitude to all employees for the changes they are making in the lives of young people at a time when “headhunters” are raiding successful school districts in search of talented teachers and support staff.


According to Superintendent Todd Lile, “The Governing Board is confident the return on [this] investment will prove that approximately 2,400 adults can exemplify the teamwork of Student Champions and that we will show our incredibly hardworking families that they can trust Madera Unified to educate our students to new levels of excellence.”


The decision to take this action took place at the scheduled board meeting on November 8 in which the board, administration, and labor leaders agreed on making the $5,000, one-time Student Champion investment.


According to a district spokesperson, “the stipend the employees are set to receive in their December payroll cycle will not affect any plans the district has in place, since it has carefully sustained a healthy budget.”