There are few new district-wide initiatives at the Bakersfield City School District this year, Superintendent Harry "Doc" Ervin stressed during a "state of the district" address delivered Friday morning.

Instead, the district is continuing to focus on a blueprint laid out last year emphasizing early literacy in kindergarten through third grade, Ervin said, explaining that if the work is done right, the district should eliminate achievement gaps by the time those students get to middle school.

“Teachers say, 'We’re not doing anything new?'” Ervin said to a crowd of hundreds of local leaders who attended Friday’s “Community Partners in Education” event at the Marriott downtown. “No. Why? Because we don’t need to. Vision without action and action without vision is a hot mess. We’re not trying to create a hot mess. Nothing new.”

Ervin’s address Friday recapped changes to the district since he arrived last year, and also touched on his vision for the city’s largest urban school district, the need for community involvement to increase student achievement and focusing on social-emotional aspects of learning.

He also addressed performance gaps among races.

“Our white students are performing better than students of color. We have to analyze our data and ask questions,” said Mark Luque, BCSD's assistant superintendent of educational services, who delivered the address alongside Ervin.

Ervin consistently delivered the message that whether it comes to classroom teaching or aesthetics of school campuses, all things must be at “the highest level of excellence.”

Cleaning up campuses, making landscaping improvements and giving buildings facelifts were among Ervin’s first charges as superintendent.

“Who here invites someone to their home and it’s not at the highest level of excellence?” Ervin asked the crowd. “If you raise your hand, let’s talk afterward, because that’s not good.”

He stressed community involvement as the key to moving the district’s students forward. The district made more than 30,000 parental contacts last year through various district-related events, Ervin said.

“We’ve got to get that to 40,000,” Ervin said.

Then he pointed to Saturday’s Parent University, an ongoing series of seminars that provides parents with lessons on how to advocate for their children’s educations. More than 780 registered for the event, he said. The registration was initially set at 500.

“There’s a correlation between parent participation and a kid’s academic success,” Ervin said. “Parents are getting involved.”

Harold Pierce covers education and health for The Californian. He can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter @RoldyPierce

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