Del Oro responds to senior project cancellation

By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Editor and Kirsten Read, Gold Country News Service
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Senior project will not be a Del Oro High School graduation requirement for the upcoming school year. The Placer Union High School District’s Board of Trustees voted to eliminate senior project at its meeting last Tuesday night, after a request was made on behalf of district administrators in order to allow the project requirements to be revamped. Del Oro principal Dan Gayaldo said he had discussions with both the school’s site council and parent club members about senior project. “The feeling I got was there definitely needs to changes made to senior project,” Gayaldo said. “It needs to be done earlier to be included with college applications. It could even be something that is done throughout their high school years,” he said. Gayaldo said, “Community service comes up in every conversation, so I would expect that to be kept in the revisions.” At the trustee meeting after extensive debate and public comment, Trustee Charles Wallgren motioned that the senior project be eliminated as a graduation requirement. Trustee Lynn MacDonald proposed an amendment that required a replacement project by fall 2013, which received no second. The board then unanimously voted to eliminate the senior project as a graduation requirement. School officials and community members in attendance expressed hope that staff would soon create a new graduation requirement to take the place of senior project. Jeff Tooker, district assistant superintendent for educational services, said teachers in general had been “overwhelmed with the process and underwhelmed with the product.” “The senior project is not coherent with what else is happening across the curriculum,” Tooker said at he July 12 meeting. “The rhetorical question that I’ve been asking the last couple of years is ‘can there be something else?’ There needs to be something that will provide students with the chance to say ‘this is what I learned in high school, and this is how I’m going to use it in the future.’” Dave Horsey, district superintendent, stated that most students choose to do something simple for their project. According to Horsey, a senior project should demonstrate that students have the ability to “think through and solve a problem” and “work in multiple disciplines.” Trustee Ron Oates said he thought senior project need not be eliminated, simply replaced. “We understand (the project’s) creativity and its importance,” Oates said. “But there needs to be more mentorship involvement.” Oates said some use the opportunity senior project provides, while others don’t. As to creating an alternate graduation requirement, Oates said staff needs to be able to focus solely on reworking a replacement program for senior project. “We can’t keep doing PLC (Professional Learning Communities), continuing the current senior project, and constructing a new one in the current environment,” Oates said. Del Oro parent Michelle Ferreira, of Loomis, was recently asked what she thought of the elimination of the senior project requirement. “It needs to be revamped. The projects get judged two weeks before graduation, the kids have no time to make it up if their project bombs,” she said. “Plus, some of the projects are kind of hokey and some are grandiose. There needs to be more balance. I think more time should be spent on career exploration instead of senior project,” Ferreira said. Del Oro student body president Brett Bacharach, soon to be a senior, said there are pros and cons to eliminating senior project. He said some projects “did contribute so much to the community, some really influenced the school.” “It’s good for seniors not to have to worry about one more thing, but it could be a little bad for the community,” Brett said.