VALPARAISO | Michael Berta, superintendent of Valparaiso Community Schools, asked members of the Rotary Club of Valparaiso to consider sponsoring the district's random substance abuse testing program at their Monday luncheon.
The district is starting the “controversial” testing this year at Valparaiso High School.
Berta said that 25 random students — those involved in extracurricular activities or those who elect to drive to school — will be tested through a urinalysis test at a cost of $700 per month to the corporation, in addition to the cost of remediation services should a student test positive.
“I am asking you to follow this program very closely, and I am also asking you to consider sponsoring this program. It would make it easier if we had the financial and moral support of the people in this room,” Berta said.
Berta noted that the needs of education have changed with the needs of the marketplace and he is seeking the input of business and community leaders to enable students to have more applicable skills.
“Fifteen years ago if I asked a kindergarten teacher what they wanted in a student they would say one who knows their colors, how to spell their name, their address. Today they want a student who keeps their hands to themselves, pays attention, is respectful, and I think that is highly aligned with the workplace. There is a correlation between what we look for in a student, and what we look for in an employee,” he said.
Berta said the district has begun working together, instead of separately, to successfully produce those students.
“When I came here in August of 2012, every one of our 12 schools was involved in an improvement process. But they were involved in isolation of one another. It seemed to me, in terms of improving an organization, best practices should apply to all, so we ended the isolation and began a system plan — a two-year process that will result in stronger schools,” he said.
He highlighted the accomplishments of the school system including higher than state and national averages in ISTEP, SAT, and ACT scores and graduation rates, as well as touting awards won by individual schools, teams, and teachers.
“Our goal is to ratchet up these accomplishments,” he said noting that the district is completing a study of its facilities this year, working with an architectural engineering group and a demographer to learn what technology and environment is best suited for academic success today and in the future.