Danville Express

Newsfront - August 24, 2007

Diversity grows in the Valley

School district faces changing demographics

by Jordan M. Doronila

Ethnic diversity continues to grow in the San Ramon Valley, and community leaders are wondering how schools will respond to the area's changing demographics.

The new Dougherty Valley High School, which will hold its grand opening tomorrow, will be the most diverse in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, school administrators said.

"We are the most diverse high school in the district," said Dougherty Valley High Principal Denise Hibbard. "We are accepting of one another; embracing one another's differences; and learning from our differences."

"When you have a population that's as diverse as ours, it reflects the world we live in today," she added.

Sophomores at Dougherty Valley High have been attending other high schools in the district. For the 2006-07 school year, the majority of the students in the district high schools were white, coming from Danville, Alamo, Blackhawk, Diablo, San Ramon and the southern tip of Walnut Creek. At Monte Vista, 1,795 out of 2,529 pupils were white. At San Ramon Valley, 1,722 out of 2,146 were white; and at California High, 1,636 out of 2,598 were white.

Asians make up the second largest ethnic group at the high schools. The Asian population statistics include Japanese, Chinese, Southeast Asians, and South Asians. Filipinos are a separate category.

There were 458 Asians at Monte Vista, 146 at San Ramon, and 446 at California. At the Danville high schools, the ethnic groups of Filipino and Hispanic were fewer than a hundred.

Ethnic makeup has nothing to do with how a student performs, said Monte Vista biology teacher Patty Carothers.

"It doesn't matter what their racial makeup is," she said. "An awful lot how a student will perform is dependent on what happens in early education at home."

"It has to do with environment," she added.

Although in Danville, the majority of residents are white, there is a significant Asian population that continues to grow in San Ramon, especially in Windemere Ranch in Dougherty Valley. At Windemere Ranch Middle School, 46.8 percent were Asians last school year and 34.7 percent were white out of 380 students. Windemere's graduating class is going to Dougherty Valley High School.

Thom Martin, executive director of the Discovery Counseling Center in Danville, conjectured how the school district will respond to the changing demographics in the Valley.

"There is significant ethnic diversity," Martin said. "I think it's great."

District officials said they know of the Valley's population changes.

Carothers said teachers are certified in Cross Cultural Language and Academic Development (CCLAD), which helps them create workable and flexible curriculum for students who don't speak English.

She noted they help non-English speaking students make connections by planning classes around themes and questions, using interpreters, and asking assistance from students and parents who are multi-lingual.

"I don't see any cultural challenges," said Carothers, about Dougherty Valley. "It's really going to be a dynamite experience for all of them. They got so much room for flexibility."

Carothers said she has seen diversity increase in the past 30 years since she has been working in the district.

"I've seen it happening," she said. "The workforce is diverse. It's destined to happen."

Contact Jordan M. Doronila at jdoronila@DanvilleWeekly.com


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