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October 1, 2023

SBHS students are behaving, but not college ready

While 98 percent of the senior class at San Benito High School graduated last year, 58 percent of the graduates did not complete the courses needed to attend a four-year state university.
A discussion of the school’s dismal number of college-eligible students emerged at the regularly scheduled board meeting last week as trustees looked at the increase in attendance and the drop in student suspensions, and questioned why academics were not following suit.
“It seems to me, my logic would be, if we’ve got kids in class (and) we’ve got kids that aren’t disrupting class, that our academic progress should follow that or be in line with that,” said Evelyn Muro, the president of the board of trustees for the San Benito High School District.
Of the graduating class last year, only 42 percent met the A-G requirements – the California State University and University of California’s list of mandatory classes needed for admittance.  
With almost an entirely new leadership team in place at the high school, including a new site superintendent, principal and two assistant principals – all within the last six months – the school is preparing for some big changes.
“What we don’t have right now is students that believe in themselves, but that’s going to change this year,” said Principal Todd Dearden, who joined the school in July and replaced Krystal Lomanto, who moved to the county office to become the new superintendent of schools.
At the meeting, Dearden described a recent walk around campus and how he asked a student about college plans. The high schooler responded that his grades weren’t very good and he wouldn’t be going to college.
“I don’t think all of them really think that they can,” the principal said.
John Perales, superintendent of the San Benito High School District, has had similar conversations with students.
“I was walking through a class today and I had a kid ask me, ‘If I go to Gavilan College, can I go to San Jose State then?’” recalled Perales at last Wednesday’s board meeting.
Perales responded with an enthusiastic “yes” and stopped the class to talk about college, but the conversation was still on his mind at the board meeting.
Counselors the focus
As trustees and administrators discussed ways to get more students college ready, they considered the school’s proportionally small staff of counselors. Each counselor is assigned to about 720 students, Perales said.
“I don’t care how good you are – you’re going to miss someone,” he said.
In a neighboring district, Perales noted that each counselor serves about 420 students.
“That’s a big difference,” he said. “We may need to look at that.”
Trustee Ray Rodriguez suggested making attempts to increase the number of students meeting A-G requirements to about 500 students, so that most of the students in the roughly, respective 600-student graduating classes would be eligible for college if they choose that route. The A-G requirements are more stringent than the high school graduation ones and include more years of English and math classes.
“I think that number is doable,” said Dearden.
“I thought you were going to say that number is too aggressive,” replied Rodriguez, as the other trustees and audience laughed.
As trustees discussed the trends in discipline and expulsions at the school, they noted a a drop in the number of students committing more than one suspendible offense in a school year. The number of students who committed two and three suspendible offenses was lower in 2013-14 than in the previous school year.
The decrease in suspensions shows an improved school environment but does not explain why more than half the graduating class didn’t have the course work needed to go to a state university after graduation. Perales suggested the school roll out a policy of having students develop a four-year plan, starting as freshmen, so that they graduate with the A-G requirements they need to make college, trade schools and unions viable options.
“Most of the unions now require a person to pass an algebra exam,” said Perales, referring to skills taught in a math class listed in the A-G requirements. “I personally know some of my friends that have not been able to do that.”
Ideally, the four-year plan would be updated at least twice a year to make sure students stay on track for graduation, he said.
“That’s going to give our students choices. It’s going to break cycles of poverty. It’s going to break cycles of abuse,” Perales said. “That four-year plan is absolutely key.”

Katie Helland • Reporter
A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.

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