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Cyril Spinelli Elementary School (Center Unified School District)

    On November 16, 1998, the 1998-1999 Sacramento County Grand Jury visited Cyril Spinelli Elementary School, in the Center Unified School District, located at 3401 Scotland Drive, North Highlands. Cyril Spinelli Elementary School was named for a longtime community activist and supporter of education.

    Background

    Center Unified School District, serving a student body of approximately 5,000, includes parts of Sacramento and Placer Counties. Cyril Spinelli Elementary School has the largest and most varied minority student body in the District. The school is on a year-round schedule and has a student population of approximately 700, of which 43 percent are minorities. Approximately 70 percent of the student body qualify for federal Title I program funding.

    The focus of the Grand Jury's visit was primarily the school's English as Second Language (ESL) and related programs. Twenty-one percent of the student body are classified ESL, divided into Non-English Proficient and Limited English Proficient students. A third group is designated as Fluent English Proficient students who do not require ESL assistance. The group designations are determined by staff based upon parental input as well as reading and writing tests.

    All students are provided an Individual Learning Plan (ILP), which is implemented by staff and included in the students' cumulative record folders. According to the staff, the school's computer laboratory uses software developed by Computer Curriculum Corporation (CCC) as a student aid to improve mathematic and reading skills. The software includes a module to assist new students from foreign countries in learning English.

    Teachers and administrators told the Grand Jury that the development and implementation of the programs and processes unique to the school had been difficult and required extra time and effort on the part of everyone. Teachers also expressed their enthusiastic belief in and support of the CCC and the positive effects it is having on the school's academic accomplishments.

    Observations

    The Grand Jury observed the prolific use of computers and was told many labor-intensive tasks had been eliminated in the overall academic development of the students, both individually and as a body. Two examples of innovative computer utilization at Cyril Spinelli Elementary School are:

    1. One person checks and verifies eligibility for the student breakfast and lunch program by computer instead of two persons manually checking.

    2. Students placed in an advanced reading program are assigned specific book lists from which to select reading assignments. The computer gives the student a thorough reading comprehension review and provides an evaluation for the teacher. This eliminates the necessity for a written book review, allowing the student to pursue other work. The teacher is freed from reading and evaluating a written book review and has time to pursue other teaching tasks.

    The Grand Jury was told that the ILP and ESL programs at the school were "the best in the area" and testing results are "verifying this assessment."

    Administrators told the Grand Jury that recruiting and retaining teachers is not difficult. However, in current years staff have been so occupied with data development, data accumulation and training, no time was left to recruit and supervise teaching interns. The Grand Jury confirmed this was a deliberate decision by the administrative and teaching staffs.

    The Grand Jury was impressed by the "can-do" attitude of the Cyril Spinelli administrators and teaching staff.

    No Response is Required.

1998/99 Sacramento County Grand Jury - Final Report (Internet Version) June 30, 1999

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