Solutions Summit Points To Recovery For High Desert

SBCSS Superintedent Dr. Gary S. Thomas

By Nolan Patrick Smith

High Desert Daily

(Victorville)– Leaders from across the High Desert came together yesterday to address some of the major issues plaguing the community in the first ever Solutions Summit.

Held at Victor Valley College’s Performing Arts Center, the Alliance for Education Solutions Summit brought together familiar faces from across the desert: from city officials, to educational leaders in the community, to Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt in attendance. Congressman Buck McKeon, California Assemblymen Steve Knight, and Senator Sharon Runner all had representatives present as well.

Attendees listen intently to speech.

The goal of the summit was to realize the issues at hand, and to start strategizing how to start correcting these issues.

Alliance for Education Executive Board Member Joseph W. Brady spoke on many of the statistics in our community, including the high drop out rate in our cities and that 35% of our population being on welfare and food stamps. “I love the High Desert, and I believe in the High Desert, but these numbers really, really, really, really concern me. Did you know that we are now number 17 in the largest amount of poverty in this country?” Many statistics were eye opening: 13.6% unemployment rate in San Bernardino County, which is high when you compare it to the 9.1% average across the United States (U.S Bureau of Labor, August 2011).

The summit had many speakers touching on various aspects of our community: Superintendent for the Victor Elementary School District and Alliance for Education Executive Board Member Dr. Dale Marsden spoke about STEAM 2020, which places emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics fields with the goal that by 2020, every child and adult in the High Desert will be prepared for the ever growing workforce by completing their high school diploma and a community college degree (or vocational, trade or technical school equivalent certificate) in a STEAM related field concurrently. A work ready, trained and prepared workforce was stressed as being vital to the community.

Dr. Marsden touched on the state of the workforce, “There are jobs in the deserts, yet some of our people can’t fill those jobs.”

VESD Superintendent Dr. Dale Marsden opening the summit.

Another speaker, who hosted a presentation regarding our community as well as the Inland Empire as whole, was well respected economist Dr. John Husing. Husing showed the rates of high school graduates to those who have earned a Bachelor’s Degree, with the High Desert falling into the second to last place. He also spoke about the recession everyone keeps hearing about, “The bottom is now finally below us. Does that mean we are out of the recession? Recession means were going down, so the recession’s over.  Does that mean we are healthy? No, we are finally on the path, and that path is going to take a long time.”

San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools Superintendent Dr. Gary S. Thomas was also a speaker for the summit, as he proclaimed, “One of the things were going to need, not just in the High Desert but in the Inland Empire, is a voice.” Yet, the event was not solely composed of speakers, as the most important part of the event was the break out sessions. Attendees were broken into groups according to their sectors: public private, K-12 education, higher education and service/faith based organizations, to work on a strategy for a specific goal in their sector in regards to the issues brought up. Progress made towards these goals will be monitored and updated quarterly, making the first update near February 2012.

For more information on STEAM 2020, as well as to follow any updates on future meetings for the Solutions Summit, visit the Alliance for Education High Desert Chapter athttp://www.steam2020.com/.

Dr. John Husing's presentation at the summit.

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