Merrill F. West was a native of Laurel, Iowa who moved to Tracy in 1936 to farm produce crops and walnuts. Mr. West served as a TUSD board member for eleven years (1954-1965), four of which as president. He also served on the County Board of Education in the 1950's. Mr. West stated his vision for education as, “The important goal, as I see it, is to give all our children an equal opportunity for a quality education with maximum efficiency of the taxpayers’ dollar.”
The campus stretches over 51 acres and supports more than 3,000 students. West High opened its doors in 1993 under the leadership of Bob Palous. Both the school colors (blue and gold) and mascot (the wolf) were voted on by the first year students. Our students are known as the Wolf Pack. Mr. Palous served as principal for three years before leaving the school. The second principal, Herman Calad, met the challenge of bringing WHS into the 20th century while facing ever-shrinking budgets and increasing pressure to produce high standardized test scores. Mr. Calad served with distinction for twelve years before retiring. To this day, through the leadership of its principal Troy Brown, WHS continues to uphold Mr. West's vision of giving all students an equal opportunity to a quality education.
Since its opening, West High became a Digital High School (1998) and has been recognized as a Distinguished California High School (2003). The Space and Engineering Academy has been awarded the Golden Bell Award (2002). The Art department was recognized as an Exemplary Program (2002-03). The Advanced Placement program has produced 102 AP scholars. Recently, administrators, teachers, and support staff at West High have been actively involved in assuring that all content area assessments align with state and local standards and frameworks. To this end, West High employs a variety of assessments to evaluate student progress and performance (STAR, CAHSEE, End-of-Course Exams, and District assessments). Core content areas are ensuring course outlines; curriculum and textbooks are aligned with California standards. During the last two textbook adoption cycles (math and ELA), only publishers whose material met the California high school standards were considered. Assessments in these areas followed the curriculum, therefore, testing the standards. Non-core content areas are aligned with the California frameworks. Additionally, peer analysis and evaluation is utilized in the English, art and social science departments as students review and submit individual and group projects.
To meet the needs of the diverse and growing student population, West High has incorporated various academic programs. The goal is to provide students opportunity to explore their academics interest while maintaining academic rigor.
A comprehensive technology plan, based on a technology vision statement, was first formulated in 1998 as part of West High’s application to become a Digital High School (DHS). Upon becoming a DHS, the plan was implemented to:
- Provide the infrastructure, hardware and software;
- Teach technology skills for our teachers;
- Infuse technology in all curricula;
- Raise student skills in technology and academics;
A Technology Council is currently managing the plan, as a WASC focus team, designated to implement the goals of the DHS. Currently all classrooms, including Success, AVID, special education, Limited English Proficient (LEP) and Title 1 classrooms, have student computers with Internet access and the teachers are totally networked with access to servers and district-wide email. All teachers have their own laptop or desktop for use in teaching, grading and attendance reporting. Aeries is used in grade book management. Computer labs have been created in business, math, the Career Center, graphic arts, computer programming, Space and Engineering, science and in drafting. The Technology Council manages a sustainability fund to replace and purchase new hardware and software as needed. The Technology Council evaluates and approves all requests for hardware and software to insure the requests meet the academic and technological needs of our students, e.g. science probe ware, PE heart rate monitors, LCD projectors, Geometer’s Sketch Pad, graphing calculators, PhotoShop, Premier, Choices, on-line science texts. Additional equipment has been acquired through community and business contacts. Computer donations have been received from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Department of California Water Resources. Software is often purchased through the collaboration of the San Joaquin County Office of Education. Likewise, the school has engaged in community recycling of computers, predominantly via the math department. The council also coordinates quarterly staff development in technology and, annually, surveys staff and student technology skills to monitor the plan’s effectiveness.
Technical assistance and support are provided school-wide. The chairperson of the Technology Council is provided a period for technology support. Three other teachers are designated as Technology Support Advisors (TSA’s) and are provided with a stipend by the district. A Help Desk, manned by advanced technology students, is available throughout the day. Various teachers within each department are trained to provide support in using Aeries. District support comes from technicians assigned to West High from the Information Services and Educational Technology (ISET) department.
Staff development is an integral part of the technology plan. Initially, a quarter ($125,000) of the DHS budget was allocated for staff development in technology. A member of the district’s staff development department has initially planned and coordinated the technology staff development by developing technology skills and teaching pedagogy. Currently, technology staff development is scheduled four times per year. In addition, new teachers receive special training at the beginning of each year on the technology used by teachers.
Furthermore, the district has convened a task force to develop an online course that will be required by all students to successfully complete in order to obtain a high school diploma.
West High School engages families by understanding the community it serves and is fortunate to have parents who have helped to contribute to the culture and richness of all West High’s history. Tracy’s population tends to be educated and holds an intrinsic belief in the value of education. Because so many of the committees and parent groups are decision making bodies (e.g. School Site Council, Digital High School Committee, Home Field Advantage, Band Boosters, Senior Parents Group), parents are involved stakeholders. Large groups of parents attend AP Night, LEP awards, District Visual and Performing Arts shows and Principal’s Forum. There is also a high level of public support as evidenced by parent volunteers on various district committees (Gateway to Tomorrow, WASC).
West High offers a variety of activities to allow families and community members to contribute to the success of our school. Parents are invited to scheduled events and to individual conferences regarding their students. Several parents and community members contribute to our SPIRIT Program each year by serving as group leaders for different ethnicities. Students are selected to serve on a committee that meets with the Principal on a monthly basis to discuss issues and concerns and to seek solutions (Principal’s Forum).
Believing that open communication is the key for maintaining a collaborative approach, parents may use Parent Connect an online information resource, anywhere or anytime they have Internet access. Parents are provided with a list of teacher voicemail numbers and e-mail addresses and the email system is widely used. The Principal’s Newsletter, a quarterly publication, informs parents about school issues, calendar of events and important community services and resources. An automated attendance phone dialer alerts parents to potential attendance problems. Each academic department of the Space and Engineering Academy has established web sites to offer parents another avenue for school, student information. Individual faculty member web pages offer parents information about course syllabus and instructor contact information. The school maintains its web site allowing parents with addition information about important upcoming events on campus.
Since its beginning West High has worked hard to build a culture where students can grow and find new things to be involved in. The ESLR’s were specifically developed to help student become life long learners. These are posted in every class and teachers are encouraged to include the ESLR’s in their lesson plans when appropriate. An extensive and successful athletic program gives students the opportunity to play team sports as well as individual sports like golf, swimming and tennis, in which they will be able to participate well into adulthood. There are a myriad of other activities, which include drama, journalism, leadership, music, art, Mock Trial, Academic Decathlon, and numerous clubs which celebrate diversity such as Black Student Union, Asian Club, Afghan Club, MeCHA, Muslim Club, PULSE (the Christian Club), Friends (help with Special Olympics) and Club Unity which promotes tolerance of different lifestyles. Other clubs such as C.F.S., S Club and Key Club are involved in many service activities, which give students a sense of community that is designed to carry over into their adult life.
Character Counts, a district wide program that was introduced three years ago, is an ongoing project in the school to make sure the six pillars, citizenship, caring, respect, responsibility, trustworthiness, and fairness, are infused in the classroom and practiced outside of the class. Our athletic teams are also involved with the program Pursuing Victory with Honor, which promotes good sportsmanship. Also our leadership class began Pride Chain in the SJAA athletic league. Before each major sport competition the leadership students meet in the center of the field and exchange spirit sticks, helping to promote friendship and good will among the schools. They also get together on a quarterly basis to deal with concerns and share ideas with one another. By having these programs in the school, it helps young people develop the necessary values that they will use as adults. The principal is also involved with our students in a program called SPIRIT. At the beginning of the year, he meets with a cross section of the student body and they brainstorm the problems that the students see as issues on campus. On the second day they meet, the students work at coming up with solutions to the problems and deciding who is responsible for seeing that the problems get handled properly. Monthly, the principal meets with representatives of SPIRIT to monitor how the issues are being taken care of and to deal with unforeseen problems. This has been a successful exercise and has given many students the opportunity to become involved and connected with their school in a positive way. The staff also nominates Students of the Month, an award given to students who exemplify the best in West High students; they are given a certificate, a letter from the principal is sent to the parents and their picture hangs in the office for the month.
West High belongs to the San Joaquin Athletic Association (SJAA). The following lists the sports that are available: