SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - In a message that was more than just a speech with bullet points, the "State of the Schools" in Santa Barbara on Thursday morning was a time for several voices including some top students.
The morning event took place in the amphitheater at Elings Park.
Santa Barbara Unified School District Superintendent Hilda Maldonado said, "when a community rises to help us take care of our children it is our duty to listen."
After months of remote meetings, she said, "the pandemic has caused me to be behind about 24 months when it comes to building real in-person relationships."
The district was upfront about issues linked to the pandemic, solutions to racial conflicts, suicide prevention, mental wellness, and the distribution of iPads to the youngest students.
"We only gave them out because of the pandemic and we are taking them back starting next week, with an option for parents who also need them at home because we know that is a reality, including, hot spots," said Maldonado.
Student leaders spoke about their needs.
"Making it mandatory for all teachers to have mental health training. It's not that long, it's like nine hours. It's definitely something that is durable," said student board member Dawson Kelly.
When it came to campus security and school resource officers on campus a request was made to rethink this policy going forward. One high school recently did not renew the contract.
San Marcos High School student Kavya Suresh said, "it was a huge step to where it is reinventing our idea of school safety. This decision was one that students have fought for for years. "
There was also a call to mentor and encourage students equally about their opportunities ahead. "White teachers and administrators can not truly understand what it is like to carry the burden of these issues the same way that someone who lives it can," said Isabella Mireles from Dos Pueblos High School.
Open communications going forward at all levels was also a priority.
"I found administrators. I found teachers who were accepting of student voices. I also found people in the media who were willing to hear the voices of students and project us so we can advocate for our needs as students," said Finnegan Wright from Dos Pueblos High.
This setting was coordinated by the Santa Barbara Education Foundation, which supports student needs throughout the district in academics, art, and personal development.
(More details and video will be added here later today.)