DOWNEY -- Downey Unified School District superintendent Dr. John Garcia was one of three superintendents statewide to receive the Superhero Award for his efforts to expand learning opportunities for low-income children.
The award was presented Jan. 25 at a gathering of the Association of California State Administrators Superintendent’s Symposium at the Monterey Convention Center.
The Superhero Award was established in 2013 by the Summer Matters campaign, which supports access to high-quality summer learning opportunities for students in California. The award highlights efforts by superintendents to provide quality programs that help children living in low-resource communities avoid the effects of summer learning loss.
Awardees are nominated by summer learning stakeholders from throughout the state, and selected by Summer Matters.
“The documented reduction in summer learning loss, the number of nourishing meals served, and the experiences enjoyed in robust summer programs for students who otherwise would likely not get those opportunities, is a moral imperative,” said Mike Berg, a former Superhero Award recipient and retired superintendent who presented this year’s award. “Summer Matters Superhero Award recipients are people who put energy and resources into summer enrichment, not because they have to, but because they are convinced that every child matters and every child can succeed with the right support and foundation.”
At Downey Unified, Garcia challenged his Board of Education to think outside the box with regard to summer learning programs. Since the program’s creation, Garcia has consistently set aside LCAP monies for programs, and has presented about the importance of summer learning programs at statewide conferences.
Garcia has built a full-day program focused on academics in the morning, and enrichment in the afternoon.
“As a district with many students who would otherwise not be able to experience a camp “type” environment, I appreciate that our Board of Education challenged us as a staff to create and implement an engaging program that combats summer learning loss in our most vulnerable students,” said Garcia. “This recognition acknowledges the constant effort put forth to address the needs of all students each and every day.”
In addition to Garcia, also honored was Dr. Cesar Morales of the Oxnard Elementary School District and Rich DuVarney of Tehama County Department of Education.
Morales set aside nearly $1 million to operate a five-week summer learning program to serve students in need. He also secured a summer feeding program operated at several Writing and Science Camp locations.
DuVarney keeps kids reading and actively engaged throughout the summer in order to prevent “summer slide” – the time of year when kids fall behind in their academic achievement levels unless they’re enrolled in summer learning enrichment programs.