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Merits of senior project program weighed

20-year-old requirement could be cut or altered
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Staff Writer
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If you want to get Del Oro High School students talking, just ask if senior projects should be eliminated. What has teens talking is the possibility that the school board could abolish or change the senior project requirement for graduation. Del Oro student Madison Briney’s senior project is to raise public awareness about foster care. On April 6, she will conduct a public meeting at Koinonia Family Services, in Loomis. Madison said she has mixed feelings about being required to complete a project in order to graduate. She feels her project is worthwhile, but said, “It’s just way too much stress.” “It’s too much during senior year when you have core classes, you’re applying for col-leges and getting ready to be on your own,” she said. The Placer Union High School District board of trustees has been listening to public comment and presentations from each of its six schools in an effort to determine if the 20-year-old program is still making the grade. According to Dave Horsey, district superintendent, the $62,000 spent by the district to administer senior projects “isn’t a financial deal-breaker,” even though the district is looking for areas where budgets can be cut. Jeff Tooker, assistant superintendent, said, “The board is trying to look at the projects from the standpoint of academics, a link to the community and a culminating final as-sessment.” According to Tooker, each school is able to “do senior projects differently,” as long as writing, completing a project and undergoing a board of review is included. Tooker said Del Oro spent $16,000 last year on oversight and review of senior projects. The cost included partial salary for teachers who have a block devoted to overseeing the projects, substitute teacher time and stipends. Dan Gayaldo, Del Oro principal, said teachers have “mixed feelings” about the value of senior projects. He said their opinions “run the gamut from ‘get rid of them’ to ‘they’re the best thing we do.’” Rocklin High School is not a part of the Placer district and Mike Garrison, Rocklin High School principal, said his students are required to complete 25 hours of community serv-ice over the course of four years, instead of a project. Randy Elder, of Loomis, is president of the South Placer Heritage Foundation and said he would be “very supportive” if Del Oro switched to a volunteer hour requirement. “It would help the students understand the value of giving back to the community. They could see what a positive impact they can have,” Elder said. Bill Ryland, administrator for Koinonia group homes, said his organization recently benefited from a senior project. He said Del Oro student Stephanie Hayworth produced a career day for 50 Koinonia students. “We always hold a high standard … causing students to stretch themselves and grow through the process. It has always been a win-win," Ryland said. Del Oro teachers Jamie Mathias and Jessie Weinberger oversee senior projects and be-lieve they should be kept. Mathias said the skills students gain at Del Oro are used to complete senior projects and “demonstrate that they can tackle real-life scenarios.” He said they use “skills such as communication, collaboration, problem solving, and critical thinking.” Weinberger said, “Senior project … can be seen as a link between the life our students are leaving and the greater world they are about to enter.” The board is expected to make a decision at their meeting at 7 p.m., Tuesday, April 6, at the district office, located at 13000 New Airport Rd., in Auburn. For more information, call (530) 886-4400.