January 20, 2022
Final Reports
San Mateo Courts - Civil Grand Jury 1998 Final Report: School to Career Program
Background | Findings | Commendation | Recommendations

San Mateo County lies in the heart of the most productive high technology area of California. It is an area of growth and affluence. Yet many young people graduate from high school with no marketable skills and no clear idea of how to start on a track that might lead to a successful career.

The traditional vocational training, that was once prevalent in high schools, although still in existence, is no longer providing the desired results. The rapid pace of technological innovation and social change plus the lack of skilled teachers has contributed to increasing inadequacy of traditional vocational training programs. School districts find it very expensive to maintain these programs. The old patterns of boys in auto shop and metalworking and girls in home economics no longer fits our working world. This is especially true in San Mateo County where the hi-tech work is achieving run-away success and men and women are nearly equal participants.

The Federal Government has recognized this need and has initiated a School-to-Work program that consists of grants to states which, in turn, pass through the funds to school districts for specified programs. In addition, the U.S. Department of Labor has appointed a group called the Secretary’s Commission on Achieving the Necessary Skills (SCANS). SCANS whose members were appointed in 1990, has published a report: “What Work Requires of Schools”. This report provides valuable focus for communities and schools as they develop their programs.

The State of California is a participant in the Federal Program but has renamed the program “School to Career.” In San Mateo County, this program is being coordinated at the San Mateo County Office of Education by an administrator whose job title is “Director, School-to-Career Partnership.” The six school districts with high schools have all agreed to participate in the program.

The California Partnership Academies Program helps to support programs throughout San Mateo County. This program is separate from the federally funded School-to-Work program and emphasizes mentoring by industry representatives, summer jobs in the same fields introduced at school, and hands-on introduction to skills and teamwork in the classroom. Students also receive the academic foundation required for graduation from high school. The Academies Program has been in existence for 20 years. It is not designed to apply to every high school student like the School-to-Career program is attempting to do. Rather, it is designed for students who are at risk of losing their desire to succeed and need the encouragement, attention and the resulting self-esteem that this program provides.

The Partnership Academies Program is an excellent program which should be encouraged. The School-to-Career Program has some of the same characteristics and goals, but the significant difference is that the School-to-Career Program will introduce all high school students to a career path and exposure to a working environment.


The San Mateo County 1998 Grand Jury observed successful efforts of a Computer Repair Class at Wilcox High School in Santa Clara and an electronics assembly class in the Partnership Academies Program of Sequoia High School in Redwood City. Both have the common goal of introducing students to the working world. Each are characterized most notably by a very “turned on” and skilled teacher. They both use electronic assembly and test as their hands-on project. Students are generally enthusiastic. Some students are making a successful transfer into the hi-tech working environment. These are successes that otherwise never would have occurred.

All high schools in San Mateo County have agreed to participate in the School-to-Career program. The 1997-1998 academic year was the first year of a five-year effort. The program includes teacher training and interchange of teachers: teachers go to industry and industry professionals to the schools. Each high school has an on-site coordinator. The goal is for every high school student in the County to have some kind of school-to-career exposure.

Although the Partnership Academies Program in some high schools is running well, the progress of School-to-Career programs throughout the county is questionable. The San Mateo County 1998 Grand Jury has received no adequate responses from the six school districts to its inquiry on the status of their School-to-Career programs. For this program to be successful, teachers, principals, school districts and the County Office of Education, along with the active participation of industry, need to mobilize to put innovative School-to-Career programs in place. This effort will take training, facilities, teacher-industry interchange; and most important, guidance, political support, encouragement, leadership and follow-through from the top school administrators in the county.


The San Mateo County 1998 Grand Jury commends the teachers and the administration at Sequoia High School in Redwood City who have developed and teach an electronic assembly and test course in the Partnership Academies Program. In their classes, students are enthusiastically acquiring knowledge and skills that are directly applicable to the current job market. These teachers have the initiative, vision and dedication that are the key ingredients to this successful program.

Recommendation 10: The Governing Boards of the six San Mateo County School Districts with high schools should direct their Superintendents and staffs to vigorously support and encourage the implementation of the School-to-Career Programs in their high schools.
Recommendation 11: The San Mateo County 1999 Grand Jury should monitor the continued establishment of the School-to-Career Program at all high schools in San Mateo County.


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