Tom Torlakson

Tom Torlakson

State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson, is making a dedicated visit to Mariposa County Schools.

He will visit four schools across the county on Friday, May 5.

“Superintendent Torlakson has taken a great interest in the small counties and small school districts in California,” said Robin Hopper, Mariposa County Superintendent of Schools. “He is concerned with our unique needs here in Mariposa, and he is also very aware of our students’ outstanding achievements. I am so pleased and excited that Mr. Torlakson has planned an entire day to visit our district schools and observe the excellent programs our teachers and classified staff provide our students.”

Hopper is the current chairman for the Small County Caucus, a subgroup of the 58 California county school superintendents. The Caucus has been meeting with Torlakson regularly over the past two and a half years, advocating for the needs of small County Offices of Education and small school districts.

Of the approximately 1,100 school districts in California, 63 percent of them are classified as small, with less than 2,000 students, based on information from the Small School Districts Association. Mariposa County Unified School District is among those small districts, as well as having the dual role of a small County Office of Education.

“At our most recent Small County Caucus meeting with SSPI Torlakson and his staff, a topic of lengthy discussion was the teacher shortage and how it exponentially impacts small, rural, difficult to recruit and retain staff districts,” Hopper said. “It’s really nice to be heard and problem solve around the table in Sacramento with those who have influence on the systems that affect our reality. They need to understand how the decisions made in Sacramento impact our schools, our teachers and our students in the classroom. This is the absolute true benefit of Superintendent Torlakson taking the time to come here to Mariposa and seeing the impact for himself, both the good and some of the challenges we face in a small rural school district.”

Another topic Hopper has been discussing with Torlakson personally is the internet bandwidth challenge some of the district’s schools have been experiencing. Even with state grants and other support, the mountainous terrain, sparseness and federal land regulations are posing significant barriers to providing adaquate connectivity for several of the Mariposa County

Unified School District schools.

“One of the opportunities we have is to demonstrate for the State Superintendent firsthand the lack of bandwidth at our El Portal school site,” Hopper said. “Mr. Torlakson is aware of this issue through my discussions with him, but it will be good for him to see and experience all that we have to go through to provide internet for our students to have an equitable education to others across our district and across the state and nation.”