Located 23 miles east of Los Angeles, the municipality of Glendora’s nickname, “Pride of the Foothills,” fairly describes its school district’s record of academic achievement.
When education funding is making other school districts cut programs and student offerings, Glendora Unified School District (GUSD) continues excelling academically while also finding creative ways to continue funding its reading, music and computer programs.
Dr. Rob Voors has been GUSD superintendent for the past two years. With over 30 years of experience in the education field, Voors believes what sets his district apart from others is its “culture of universal success.”
“We believe all students can and will achieve,” he explains, and his statement is backed by results. GUSD is part of a select statewide group of districts that have received an Academic Performance Index (API) score of over 800 at all of their comprehensive schools. “Our nine schools include six California Distinguished Schools, one Title I High Achieving School and a Model Continuation High School,” the superintendent proudly points out.
Voors explains the district’s accomplishments are “the result of dedicated and talented teachers, support staff, administrators and school board.” He also credits the success of his students to a very active PTA, the Foundation for Glendora Unified Schools, community service groups such as Kiwanis, Rotary, Kiwanians, Soroptimists and extensive volunteerism.
The city of Glendora is also a valuable partner to the district. Voors claims the district offers world-class academics, but acknowledges education is not only about books. “We offer exceptional, well-rounded educational experiences for students that include CIF Championship athletic programs and award-winning band, orchestra, choirs and drama,” he says.
The district’s budget situation, like in districts throughout the country, is dire. The state has made budget cuts in education of over $18 billion in the past few years. The state of California has imposed a deficit factor of over 22 percent , and on top of that, the state defers nearly half of its funding from one pay period to the next, or one fiscal year to the next, which causes cash flow problems and requires the district to borrow money for short-term loans to cover their costs until they receive state funds.
In an effort to overcome the economic hurdles, the district has formed partnerships and programs to help students stay on top of academic excellence. One of those partnerships is with The Barton Reading Program, which has received worldwide acclaim for its work with elementary school children reading below grade level due to dyslexia or other causes.
The community also got onboard and formed the Foundation for Glendora Unified Schools, a nonprofit organization that contributes nearly half-a-million dollars to the school district yearly from outreach programs in the community. The money raised has enabled the schools to sustain their music programs and infuse technology into nearly every classroom.
But the most important tool to deal with the slashed funds, according to Voors, was created three years ago when the board of education made the decision to pass a resolution to make GUSD a “District of Choice.” This allows children of any school district to attend Glendora Schools. “When these students [up to several hundred each year] come to our schools, so does the funding,” Voors explains. “Whereas most schools are experiencing declining enrollment, we are growing each year.”
With all of its efforts to support academic excellence, it is only natural that 92 percent of Glendora graduates go to college. “We continue to push for academic rigor at all levels,” Voors states. “The number of students taking A-G [University of California requirement] courses is at an all-time high, as is the number of students taking advanced placement courses.”
Students participating in AP went from 338 to 467, from 2010 to 2011, while their scores simultaneously improved. “We’ve been named to the AP Achievement List by the College Board,” Voors boasts.
The district was honored by the College Board for opening AP classrooms to a broader pool of students, while maintaining or improving the percentage of students earning a score of 3 or higher. Fewer than 400 school districts in the nation were included in this list.
Voors is optimistic about the future of education. “I continue to be optimistic that California will fund education at a level that doesn’t leave a generation of students behind,” he says. “I know that in the next five years, 21st-century skills will be essential for our students.”
“Glendora Unified School District will be a place where our mission of universal access to increase student achievement will stay consistent, but the path we use to get there may vary,” Voors predicts. “We will stay flexible and serve our school and communities. As once was said, ‘Those who refuse to change are wonderfully equipped for a world that no longer exists.’” That will certainly not apply to the students of Glendora Unified School District.