July 16, 2024
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Our view: Ventura County students on path to attend college


Ventura County has taken a big step forward when it comes to math and science education with the P-20 Council, a business-education group, forming better connections between public education and the private sector.

Those connections include a new program aimed at identifying strong students in STEM fields and providing them with the support they need to get a degree. A pact that was slated to be unveiled on May 11 puts middle school and high school students directly on a path to attend Oxnard College and/or CSU Channel Islands.

Under the STEMPacts, high school students will commit to keeping their grades up while researching careers in science, technology, engineering and math and middle school students will commit to attending one of the Oxnard Union High School District’s STEM academies at Hueneme or Channel Islands high schools.

CSUCI and Oxnard College will guarantee admission, provided students meet minimum qualifications, and help students get the support necessary to have a reasonable chance at success. CI Chemistry Professor Phil Hampton led the effort to develop support programs.

He worked closely with the P-20 Council, which is chaired by Ventura County Superintendent of Schools Stan Mantooth. Mantooth said the council is “committed to building new pathways to higher education.”

Ventura County Community College District Chancellor Bernie Luskin helped bring Oxnard College into the STEMPact program. “We are proud that the Ventura County Community College District’s Oxnard College has partnered with CSUCI and Oxnard Union High School District,” said VCCCD Board of Trustees Chair Bernardo Perez.

Luskin, who ran Oxnard College before being named interim chancellor, will retire June 30 so it’s a great way to bow out.

Another key player in the development of P-20 was former CSUCI President Richard Rush, who stepped down last summer after serving as the founding president of the university. Rush’s vision of creating better pathways for Ventura County students whose families have no history with post-secondary education made P-20 a natural partner for CSUCI.

Purists may argue that STEM is too limiting and that it excludes “arts” or “agriculture” and should be called STEAM or STEAAM. But to have 70 area students, many from families with no history of sending kids to college, take a pledge to create a pathway to a degree in science, technology, engineering or math is a huge step forward.


Several of the ideas being hatched at Ventura County’s P-20 Council have their origins in the Partners in Education program that Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone put into place more than 25 years ago.

He’s a pioneer in developing collaborative relationships that brought computers to the homes of kids who could not afford them and he devoted considerable time and resources to trying to understand the needs of area businesses. During the past 34 years, the county’s education office created leading edge academies in areas such as marine science, construction and other fields.

Cirone announced earlier this spring that he will be retiring on July 1. His efforts to prepare kids for careers in the private sector have been important and that mission should not be overlooked by his successors.