Selma Unified collaborates with families, promotes student achievement
In Selma, California, the diverse community is making strides in education. The local school district, Selma Unified, is prioritizing student success and achievement across its 11 campuses.
There are around 6000 students across the district coming from varying backgrounds, who David Diehl, the district’s Director of Student and Community Services, says all contribute to the wellbeing of Selma itself.
“If students are successful in Selma, the community becomes more successful,” Diehl said.
Diehl has worked in education for 14 years, including a decorated run in administration with Monterey Peninsula Unified School District. He’s a retired police sergeant, dedicated to “putting systems into place” to help students succeed in and beyond the classroom.
When he started his new position with Selma Unified, he was intentional about taking the time to observe and immerse himself into the tight-knit community before he rushed into solutions. Now, he’s excited to continue learning more about what makes Selma special, and how he can contribute to the growing community.
One of those contributions is finetuning a multi-tiered intervention system, where schools can reach out to and support every individual student with a plan and message designed for their circumstances. This makes building and maintaining relationships with families essential to student achievement.
“We are in a continual improvement mode,” Diehl said.
This year, the district will partner with The Achievement Initiative to integrate Attention2Attendance (A2A). The program is a service that tracks student attendance and sends positive communication to families about developing strong attendance habits and the importance of consistency for student success. Staff will be equipped with detailed information on student attendance trends in addition to tools for early intervention.
With A2A, the district can see how often a student misses school and identify which classes a student misses.
“There's implications if students aren't in school,” Diehl said. “They're missing their education.”
This data analysis will help identify areas for improvement and encourage consistent communication between schools and students’ families.
“Schools have to work with our families, educate our families, support our families…in building those good habits of school attendance,” Diehl said.
After the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Diehl says the district saw rates of chronically absent students in the 40s. This means more than 40 percent of students are missing ten percent of the school year – higher than the state average.
By partnering with The Achievement Initiative, the district is taking an active approach toward investing in student achievement and wellbeing. In addition to A2A, the district employs a handful of mental health therapists and social workers to ensure that students are supported on numerous levels. Diehl says this is an integral part to supporting students post-pandemic.
“Many of our families don't have the resources to get private counseling,” Diehl said. “So we're bringing the counseling and the services to them.”
Diehl says another important part to strengthening the school district is ensuring “deficit language” doesn’t plague the conversation regarding student success.
“I feel that to address it from a positive light goes further than if I were to say what you're doing wrong, as opposed to how to do it right,” Diehl said.
Phrases like “at-risk” can cloud conversations about achievement gaps in education with negative terminology. But, by centering student opportunity, the systems that Diehl is working to establish can help foster their success.
“The community becomes more prosperous when our students are prosperous,” Diehl said. “When they're coming to school, when they're learning, when they're healthy…they improve the community and they improve the overall environment.”