Sunday, May 3, 2015

Reaching Every Student: Carmel Elementary School, Hesperia, CAL

Carmel Elementary School, Hesperia, California. The High Desert, a rural area, struggles to help low income families in a ethnically mixed demographic. This is just before school on a winter's morning.
'Reaching Every Student' is a series on MzTeachuh looking at school efforts in support of all students.  Principal Craig Gunter graciously answered questions and shared the perspective of Carmel ES in Hesperia, California. This is a K-6 school not designated a charter, a parent-choice school, nor a magnet school. Carmel is a neighborhood school.  It is neither an old school nor a new one, built in the late nineties, but it is beautifully set at the foot of the Mariana Mountains, part of the San Bernardino range, northeast of Los Angeles. If you're driving from Los Angeles to Las Vegas on Interstate 15, you'll drive right by Hesperia.

Craig Gunter, Principal, Carmel ES
This is Mr. Gunter's first year at Carmel, having served as principal in Hesperia Unified School District for several years at a different elementary school. "The staff at Carmel," Mr. Gunter shared, "works together very well, like family." And this was a prime reason he transferred to this school.

Mr. Gunter indicated that the program at Carmel implements the Common Core, and is actively utilizing Chromebooks, 1:1 from Grades 2 through 6, as of about two months ago with the District rollout.  Although a  'Mac person,' Mr. Gunter appreciates that the Chromebook "has everything the students need, and are cheaper." The Chromebooks are also sturdier. The school just finished with testing. There are still concerns about infrastructure to service the approximately 22,000 students in the District. Students efficiently log on to the Chromebooks and are able to write and save essays on assigned topics with little assistance as early as Grade 4.

The Special Education program at Carmel works very efficiently. Mr. Gunter is an administrator who has particular interest as a Special Education parent himself (his student is on the secondary level.) The students with IEPs for mild handicaps seemlessly embed in the general education classes. The students with IEPs for moderate handicaps mainstream. "The general education teachers cooperate well," Mr. Gunter said. The Desert Mountain SELPA (County level Special Education services) provides counseling services for general education students as the staff at Carmel identifies the needs. The Special Education team also carefully matches students to appropriate services. This takes a serious level of expertise and commitment.

Mr. Gunter stated that next year Carmel ES would participate in the national program, 'The Leader In Me,' http://www.theleaderinme.org/ . The team at Carmel wrote a grant. The school already has Leadership Day speeches (K-12), STEM competition in robotics that a girls' team won, and various PBL activities that promote cooperation. But the 'Leader in Me' program will require teacher training and involved all students. As Mr. Gunter says, "It's good to expand your horizon."

Carmel Elementary School, Hesperia, California



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