Tustin, Brea Olinda communities turn out for state-of-the-schools events

Two Orange County school districts brought their communities together to highlight recent accomplishments and challenges during separate state-of-the-district events this week.

The Tustin Unified School District held its State of the Schools dinner Wednesday evening at Tustin High School. The Brea Olinda Unified School District followed suit on Thursday morning at the Brea Community Center.

Here’s a quick recap.

Tustin Unified School District

Tustin Superintendent Greg Franklin

Speaking at his final State of the Schools event, Tustin Unified Superintendent Dr. Greg Franklin outlined his district’s achievements, spotlighted standout staff members and reflected on efforts to support the health and wellbeing of students through a global pandemic.

With Advanced Placement and dual enrollment options, TUSD students exceed state and county averages on both English and math assessments, and 93 percent of the district’s graduates go directly to colleges or universities, Franklin told an audience of about 300.

“If they decide to do something else, that’s fine,” he said. “But in today’s economy, in today’s labor market, they need something beyond the high school diploma to be able to be competitive and make a good wage.”

The superintendent, delivering his final yearly address after announcing his plans to retire at the end of December, further touted the district’s robotics program, career technical education opportunities, and technology resources, which, he said, have become just a regular part of teaching and learning. 

He also talked about the challenges of educating and supporting students through the COVID-19 era. TUSD was one of the first districts to resume in-person instruction in September 2020, and Franklin noted that Tustin schools have effectively limited transmission of the coronavirus while targeting learning gaps. 

On the subject of learning, Franklin discussed new advancements in neuroscience that show how cognitive development is impacted by life experiences, including stress and trauma.

“If a kid has stress in their life, it has a negative effect on what they’re able to learn,” he said. 

Rich learning experiences and support are necessary for mastering content, but so are relationships, as well as a sense of belonging, he said. To that end, TUSD has added ethnic studies courses at the high school level and is broadening its coursework across the curriculum to include more culturally diverse authors and narratives. 

“Now we talk about how literature should act as a mirror so that I can see myself in the story,” he said. “I can relate to the character. I can relate to the experience. It helps me engage in the story.”

The Tustin Unified School District serves more than 22,000 students at 16 elementary schools, four middle schools, four high schools, two K-8 schools, an online K-12 school, a magnet school currently serving grades six through 10, and one adult education program.

Wednesday’s event, presented by TUSD and the Tustin Public Schools Foundation, was held in an outdoor plaza on the campus of Tustin High School, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

For more on Tustin Unified, visit www.tustin.k12.ca.us.

— Ian Hanigan

Brea Olinda Unified School District

Addressing an audience of state legislators, local dignitaries, district leaders, families and students, Brea Olinda Unified Superintendent Dr. Brad Mason opened the district’s fifth annual State of the Schools breakfast with a simple message: “It’s a good day to be in Brea.”

As the event’s keynote speaker, Mason delivered a speech that centered on the theme of “Back and better than ever; Braving the future together” and highlighted the community’s resilience during the pandemic, as well as recent successes at the district’s 10 schools.

When talking about the challenges of teaching and learning during the pandemic, Mason celebrated the many students from varying grade levels that had their “eyes focused out” and continued to give back to the Brea community. He spoke of a young third-grader who, during the pandemic, made jewelry for children with cancer, and he lauded the Brea Olinda High School robotics team that produced hundreds of face shields for first responders.

“It’s not just reading, writing and arithmetic we are teaching here in BOUSD,” he said. “We’re raising whole children.”

The superintendent also addressed the growth of the district’s career pathways and Career Technical Education — or CTE — programs and local community partnerships that have continued to thrive even in the midst of a global health crisis.

“Our BOUSD community is built from the people sitting here today,” he said. “From partnerships with Fullerton College that bring college credits to our high school students, to local businesses that provide internships and job-shadowing experience, to the police and fire departments that keep us safe, we are one community.”

Mason also said that while the district has much to celebrate, there are some challenges that lie ahead. The district, with two schools over 100 years old, has many facility needs that will need to be addressed in the near future.

The Brea Olinda Unified School District, with six elementary schools, one junior high, one high school, one continuation high school and one online academy, serves approximately 6,000 students.

Thursday’s event, which was presented by the Brea Education Foundation, was held at the Brea Community Center. For more information about the Brea Olinda Unified, visit www.bousd.us.

— Nichole Pichardo