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State of Education 2023


Santa Maria Valley Chamber and SBCEO partner to shine spotlight on schools in annual State of Education event
School leaders shared insights on college & career pathways, 
business partnerships, enrollment trends, facilities, and how schools nurture student mental & emotional health
May 9, 2023
SANTA BARBARA COUNTY – The business community heard from local education leaders on the most pressing topics facing schools today during the Santa Maria Valley Chamber’s annual State of Education event, held Tuesday morning, May 9, 2023, at the Radisson Hotel in Santa Maria.
The event included a panel discussion moderated by Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools Susan Salcido with Santa Maria Valley school district superintendents: Holly Edds of the Orcutt Union School District; Antonio Garcia of the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District; Emilio Handall of the Guadalupe Union School District; and Darren McDuffie of the Santa Maria-Bonita School District. The panel covered a range of topics, including how school districts collaborate in preparing students for college AND career, not just college OR career, and how businesses can help schools respond to local workforce trends and needs.
“When many of us went through school, we were on one of two tracks: a college-prep track, or a vocational track,” Superintendent Garcia said. “That has now evolved to Career Technical Education and other programs. The goal is to prepare students for college AND career.” 
Superintendent Edds added that regular communication amongst the valley’s superintendents is critical to student success, and so is regular input from the business community. 
“We share students, so it’s important for us to communicate as leaders across the valley,” said Edds. “It goes beyond coursework. It’s also about preparing students for life. What kind of skills do they need to get there? How do I balance a budget? How do I pay my bills? What is a mortgage? What are taxes and why do I have to pay them? It’s not just those discrete job skills but it’s those greater skills, like being able to collaborate and be a team player.”
Superintendent McDuffie added that along with academics, schools focus on nurturing students to be kind, caring, empathetic, and compassionate human beings.
County Superintendent of Schools Salcido expressed her thanks to the Santa Maria Valley Chamber and community members in the audience for their input, feedback, support, and ideas as active and valued partners for all schools in the Santa Maria Valley: “The superintendents engaged in conversations today about partnerships with the community, and that really circles back to the Chamber of Commerce and all of the business partners and colleagues here.”
A second panel included SBCEO’s Noelle Barthel, Director of Career Technical Education (CTE), and Chelsea Duffy, Executive Director of Partners in Education, who spotlighted successful business partnerships and also encouraged others to get involved with local schools through such opportunities as volunteering as a career coach, interviewing students in mock interviews, hosting a student intern, or hosting a CTE teacher tour. 
The event included an update from Allan Hancock College Superintendent/President Dr. Kevin Walthers, who walked the crowd through a presentation of the latest advancements at the campus - including the new, state-of-the-art fine arts complex.
Glenn Morris, President & CEO of the Chamber, said a major pillar of their work is forging partnerships between businesses and schools to create a sustainable pathway to economic vitality across the region.
Media Contact:
Camie Barnwell, SBCEO Director, Communications
(805) 696-0064
(805) 964-4711 x 5282

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