Joe McCleary, Dana Point

Citizens who are concerned about the condition of our educational system may feel a bit overwhelmed with the deluge of information about the schools pouring out of today’s media.

Dana Point residents seeing the streams of young people filling the streets around Golden Lantern daily may wonder whether or not they are being well served by their high school’s offerings.

To some of the knowledgeable locals, there has been at least one monthly opportunity to experience firsthand the ability to personally evaluate the outcomes of student-school interaction.

On one Sunday evening a month since last September, an “Evenings at Sunset” program at the Dana Point Yacht Club has hosted groups from the South Orange County School of the Arts at Dana Hills High School (SOCSA).

Nine programs of student artists in music, dance and theater arts have rewarded audiences with their talents.

Every program has provided an unfailing display of exceptional student abilities. They have come well groomed, attractively dressed and eminently prepared to offer their very best. Without fail, the audiences’ applause has awarded the performers, teachers and supporters an A+.

Sunday May 5, the Cinco de Mayo program was especially outstanding with a combination of separate student groups melded into an enthusiastic rendition of instrumental and vocal numbers. It reminded us the final program on June 2 will bid farewell to the seniors who will be leaving to pursue their own unique futures. A buffet dinner at 5 p.m. and concert time at 6 p.m. at the Dana Point Yacht Club both have modest charges that will undoubtedly seem a privilege to pay for such superb entertainment, and it’s open to the public.

For those who require more evidence that the schools are doing an even better job, a recent release reported that the Capistrano Unified School District graduated 96.9 percent of their students. All the school districts of the county showed increases in graduation rates. We’ve read recently of the schools participating successfully in national academic decathlons, and graduation invitations are pouring out from all over the state.

The secret is not in the rising use of standardized tests, a huge growth industry for test makers, it’s in the teachers who are left in their classrooms after all the pink slips were issued. It’s in the remaining few counselors, librarians, nurses and administrators who are doing exceptional jobs under very trying conditions. Students are working hard; parents and other community supporters are pitching in. Organizations like the SOCSA Foundation help make the special magnet programs like SOCSA succeed.

What am I doing?

I’ve already offered help to the foundation, and I intend to encourage the repetition next school year of the “Sundays at Sunset” at the Dana Point Yacht Club. If you believe your support is important, go ahead and make that call to Dana Hills High School at 949.496.6666, SOCSA Foundation at 949.240.1994 and to the Dana Point Yacht Club at 949.496.2900.

I’ll see you on June 2 for the “Senior Send-off.”

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