Education Spotlight: Merced County superintendent discusses annual report, goals for next year

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- In ABC30's segment, Education Spotlight, Action News Anchor Landon Burke will talk with Merced County Office of Education (MCOE) officials about some of the biggest topics in education.

Landon Burke spoke with Merced County Superintendent Dr. Steve Steve Tietjien about this year's annual report. Tietjien spoke about all the changes the last year brought and his hopes for the next year.

Click here to view Merced County Office of Education's annual report.

Landon: Dr. Tietjen, what can you tell me about the annual report this year?

Steve: Well, this year's annual report is our 10th annual report on schools in Mercer County. Typically, they highlight particular programs that focus on achievements in that program over the course of the year. Unfortunately, this year, first, we're faced with the challenge of COVID-19, and the report really focuses on the process that we've been through in our public schools here in Merced County and our fight against COVID-19 and our, efforts to get kids back to in-person instruction. And, of course, providing the best experience that we can in during distance learning, and so it's kind of a collection of the past year's challenges and successes.

Landon: So let's talk about the past year. What of those "challenges overcome" are you most proud of?

Steve: Well, I think, first of all, meeting basic needs of children is the bottom line for most of us in education. And making sure that they had meals that we always provide kids we've provided over 6 million meals to students across Merced County in the course of the past year.

And that was a fantastic effort by everyone, including bus drivers taking lunches out and dropping them off, meals every week. It included not just the food service staff, but at first, they were key members of the effort. But anybody that was able to come to a school site to help distribute lunches many times that was the teachers, as well as administrators, are there doing that for kids. You know, so that's one. The second one is the effort teachers made to make sure that their curriculum was engaging and something that kids wanted to come back to. You know, the challenge is, during distance learning, getting kids to turn that device on in the morning.

Landon: I know that nobody can really predict the future on this, but let's talk about your hopes. What are your hopes for the next school year?

Steve: Well, my hopes really begin now with the rollout of the vaccine across our county for teachers. My hope is that every school district is able to roll out a K-6 program and have kids come back that want to come back, and most of our districts are at this point in a K-6 model of reopening. And we have our high school district reopening open back in October, so I'm excited about that. But what I hope for next year is that really we start in August with as many kids that want to come back in the classroom. You know the classroom is really the most effective learning environment for kids. And so we want to have all those classrooms available. Teachers vaccinated a robust testing system, and as many students vaccinated as possible as well.
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