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An A+ Eye on Education

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“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” 

Nelson Mandela’s quote is just one of many that celebrate education and the difference it makes in every community. I’ve had the privilege of working as an educator in the Central Valley since the “summer of love” and I believe teaching is among the most noble and dignified professions.

I’m thrilled to partner with Carrie Sass and the HERLIFE Magazine team to provide a regular feature about education in our county. The quality of life in a community is directly affected by the quality of education the community receives and has access to. Think about education as formal–what happens in schools, school systems, community colleges, universities and trade schoolsand informal–what we learn through friendship, clubs, sports, hobbies, organizational affiliations, work and service in our community. Both are critical and essential to all of us.

Our goal is to inform you about education in the county and help you be a better advocate, consumer and champion for education. Knowledge is power. Accurate information and data give everyone a more knowledgeable voice and role in improving and enhancing educational opportunities for all.

This first article provides a summary of what parents and community members are saying about education as we continue to emerge from this pandemic. Last year, San Joaquin A+ commissioned Change Research to survey parents and community leaders throughout the county. They surveyed in every one of our communities with an emphasis in Stockton, Lodi, Tracy and Manteca, and the responses were important and actionable. 

What did we learn? Do our learnings and the survey results match your thinking? Take a look at the survey results that are summarized below. Continue to focus on education and the role it plays for you, your family and our community.

Survey Results

As of mid-2021, most parents were ready for schools to be open. The majority of parents (67 percent) in San Joaquin County feel comfortable with their children returning to schools in person. A plurality (47 percent) believe schools have not reopened quickly enough, while 28 percent feel school reopened at the right pace and 25 percent feel schools reopened too quickly.

Parents feel their children need immediate support. Sixty-six percent of parents with school age children are worried their children have fallen behind. And they place a very high priority in the areas of social and emotional support in schools, and one-on-one academic tutoring to help catch children up.

Parents want engagement and transparency around federal dollars. Seventy-seven percent of parents say it is important for local stakeholders such as parents and teachers to have a seat at the table in conversations about how money is spent. Questions about transparency and accountability around federal dollars stand out as areas of priority for residents throughout the survey.

San Joaquin County residents are ready for innovation and change. Seventy-two percent of those surveyed think we should use these dollars to drive innovation in schools, to try new and creative approaches to educate students.

Parents are focused on jobs and the future for their children. Parents not only have immediate concerns about getting students back on track but share a strong priority for programs that will create pathways to jobs and more affordable college access. Questions that mentioned programs that prepare students for jobs and careers consistently were ranked near the top priorities throughout the survey.

To learn more and share comments or other story ideas:
• Visit the SJA+ website at
• Email me at

By: Don Shalvey

Dr. Don Shalvey is the CEO of San Joaquin A+. He is widely recognized as an innovative leader in public education. Don’s career includes roles as a teacher and principal, ten years as superintendent in San Carlos, founding both California’s first charter school and Aspire Public Schools, and 11 years as a deputy director for K-12 education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr. Shalvey is a frequent advisor to policy makers and school system leaders. The prestigious Ashoka Foundation recognized Don as a Fellow for his outstanding work as a social entrepreneur. Don brings a half-century of experience to the boards he serves, including his role as a Regent at the University of Pacific, the oldest chartered university in California. Don earned an EdD in educational leadership and administration from the University of Southern California, an EdM in counseling and guidance from Gonzaga University and a BA from LaSalle University.  |