To YCOE and MJUSD Superintendents and Trustees:
I am writing this email in regard to the executive decision from the Yuba County Office of Education to cut the county’s Academic Decathlon program for the 2020-2021 school year.
After the California Academic Decathlon program announced it would operate entirely online for the upcoming school year, YCOE unilaterally decided to cut the program from our schools. YCOE ostensibly claimed this is because they, with absolutely no consultation to coaches or teams, no research, and no precedent, have baselessly predicted students will not choose to participate and compete with the new online format.
Programs such as this require continuity for their longevity. To realize this, we need only look to our neighbors across the river in Sutter County, whose program has been dead for almost 15 years, despite repeated efforts to reestablish it. By discontinuing the program for the next year, YCOE will assuredly obliterate the program in this county.
Furthermore, in the time of socially distant and digital learning, programs such as this, even in an online capacity, will be critical in keeping students tied and grounded to their campuses, their communities, and their friends.
In a county that already offers such little enrichment for its students, this program has provided so much to many. None of our high schools offer even basic enrichment programs such as debate team, mock trial, model UN, mathletes, or even student newspapers, which are found almost universally in high schools around the U.S.
Academic Decathlon is the ONLY academically oriented extracurricular we provide to our students. This program, put simply, has changed lives; it provides our students invaluable critical thinking tools, study skills, and a work ethic. The program is available to all students, regardless of GPA, and provides them the opportunity to compete and succeed in a rigorous academic environment.
In the words of a former decathlete “Academic Decathlon is about daring to push your limits, to master college-level material and to practice skills, like public speaking, that might be wholly new to you. It’s about the people you’ll meet along the way – the coaches who will mentor you, the competitors who will challenge you, and the teammates who will become your lifelong friends.”
This program teaches you not just to read, or study, or prepare -- but to learn, to understand; not just to win, but to lead. Please, for the sake of our students and their futures, save this program.
(This letter, or very similar versions, was received from a few dozen people.)
Dear AcaDeca Students, Alumni, Parents, and Colleagues:
In the last few hours, I have received numerous letters from students and MJUSD alumni outlining their concerns regarding the cancelation of the yearly Academic Decathlon (AcaDeca) for the coming school year. First and foremost, I want to extend my admiration and respect to all for getting in touch with me directly. Clearly, AcaDeca participants give all of us hope and optimism given these challenging times.
Secondly, I do want to address a number of statements that were raised in the letters that do not accurately reflect how and why the decision was made to postpone the event to the following year. Given the growing concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the state made the decision in June to have the event online this year. Conducting an online AcaDeca competition clearly raises unique challenges.
As Yuba County superintendent, I collaborated and consulted closely with all our district superintendents in a June meeting (not Zoom) to assess our next steps. At that gathering, there was a general consensus to postpone AcaDeca for this year, especially given the declining student participation in the yearly event. Clearly, this was not a unilateral decision on the part of YCOE.
Moreover, and subsequent to the meeting, YCOE’s AcaDeca coordinator personally communicated with Marysville High School’s Academic Decathlon coach, to share the challenges and rationale surrounding the decision. The general feedback, especially from MHS’s AcaDeca coach, was that it would be difficult to field an AcaDeca team given the online nature of the event. More to the point, this was not a baseless prediction, but an informed one.
In closing, I want to underscore that AcaDeca has NOT been terminated, just postponed to re-evaluate for the spring of 2021 with the hope of keeping students safe and increasing participation. Rest assured that the Yuba County Office of Education is a strong supporter of our Academic Decathlon. Indeed, YCOE resurrected this beautiful event after years of neglect. We strongly support and continue to pledge our commitment to our students. I invite you to communicate directly with me at (530) 749-4855 or with our Academic Decathlon coordinator, Amy Nore at (530) 749-4854.
Francisco Reveles, Ed.D.
Yuba County superintendent of schools