Superintendent's Update

MESSAGE FROM SUPERINTENDENT, DON AUSTIN

My wife and I recently attended the Golden Gate Theatre performance of Anastasia. As always, my mind drifted to our students and the opportunities they have in our system. I loved seeing pure joy in the faces of the performers, including the conductor and pit orchestra. I am also mindful that for every person on stage, there are countless people working behind the scenes to make it all possible.


At some point, each performer had a conversation with their peers and families about their desire to pursue acting. Most of the actors likely performed in high schools, whether it was singing, acting, or playing an instrument. Some advanced their training in college as theater majors, while some went straight to acting as professions. What if someone told them not to follow their dreams? What if their schools didn’t have programs that matched their aspirations? What if their parents steered them in a different direction? Who knows what paths were possible, but we sure enjoyed seeing them on stage and they looked happy!


We have a high-performing school district with an emphasis on measuring outcomes. I want to protect space for students to also share their talents in creative and less measured areas. Success is not defined the same for all students or families. It is important that we maintain a perspective that our role is to help all students find their own paths. If we create space, they will often exceed our wildest expectations!

LATE START LEGISLATION SB 328

With legislation sitting on the governor’s desk, PAUSD will likely need to begin discussions regarding our start times in the near future. If signed into law as expected, our schools will have until the start of the 2022-23 school year to adjust our schedules to conform. The mandate may also provide an opportunity to explore other issues tied to secondary school schedules. We will put together groups of stakeholders to look at ways we may streamline and align our schedules to better utilize resources and potentially share teachers, staff, and students between schools. The transition period may prove to serve as an opportunity to improve our system in ways beyond start times and we will not miss the chance to explore options. A recent article in Ed Source captures the proposed law nicely for those desiring more information at: Ed Source – Late Start.

PAUSD WORKFORCE HOUSING

The Board of Education will discuss the possibility of creating workforce housing at their regularly scheduled meeting on October 15th. The District owns property at 525 San Antonio Blvd. that could serve as a site for a future housing project. No vote or action is anticipated in the near future. Instead, the Board of Education will have several sessions to examine the issue from multiple angles.

GUNN HIGH SCHOOL SELF SHELF

In SELF, our 9th, 10th, and 11th grade SELF cohorts are all beginning new 8-week units:


9th: Finding Balance

10th: Exploring College and Careers

11th: Goal Setting/Future Planning


9th grade students will be focused on how schoolwork, extracurriculars, technology and free time can be more effectively balanced in a high school context through a more mindful approach to focusing and planning. They will discuss different techniques for improving focus and time management, and discussing tools that can be helpful in feeling healthier and more efficient in their approach to their academics. The 10th grade unit on college and career exploration, which was added as a direct result of feedback gathered from SELF students and an advisory panel of older students, will begin with the first of several self-assessments around interests, personal strengths and preferences that might help them better understand what careers might be fulfilling to them someday. Finally, in the 11th grade cohorts, as part of an exploration into understanding how people find satisfaction in their careers and broader life choices, students will be watching an award-winning documentary this week and next about a famous New York Times photographer, Bill Cunningham. According to his passions, talents and idiosyncrasies, the film shows how Cunningham documented changing fashion trends in New York City across many decades and became a beloved figure in the global fashion scene, all while leading a startlingly simple lifestyle.

PALY FOOTBALL INVITE TO ALL STUDENTS

All PAUSD students are all invited to attend Paly’s football game at home this Friday, October 11, against the Fremont Firebirds. To make the game even more fun, any K-8 PAUSD student wearing gear from their school gets in FREE! Adults are still full price for the event. Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m.

STANFORD UNIVERSITY COMMITMENT LETTER

Stanford University recently stated to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors that they would not accept a General Use Permit without a Development Agreement. While the difference between the two paths is relatively complex, it is also irrelevant as it relates to the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD). In a recent letter from Stanford University to PAUSD, their commitment to our schools was affirmed. The letter clarified that if Stanford builds new housing as a result of obtaining any permit, they would honor our previously negotiated terms. If no permit is offered or accepted, there is nothing for Stanford to mitigate.


Moving our regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Education from October 22 to October 15 allows our Board members and staff to attend the Santa Clara County Supervisors’ meeting held on October 22 at the Palo Alto City Hall. We plan to ask the County Supervisors to keep our schools at the forefront before finalizing a permit with Stanford University.

MIDDLE SCHOOL ENGLISH LITERATURE SELECTION ADVISORY COMMITTEE

Members of the Middle School English Literature Selection Advisory Committee held their first meeting on Wednesday, September 25. A part of PAUSD’s ongoing curriculum evaluation and renewal cycle, the Advisory Committee will be reviewing current PAUSD literature in addition to examining new titles for possible inclusion in the middle school curriculum. The Committee anticipates recommending two California Department of Education (CDE)-approved core literature texts as required reading for each grade level (6-8) to the Board of Education in the spring of 2021. In addition, the Committee also plans to recommend a menu of CDE-approved supplemental literature for optional use. The expectation is that the core literature texts will be implemented in classrooms beginning in the 2021-22 school year. The meeting agenda included a review of some of the major shifts in English that the adoption of the Common Core in 2010 brought about. In addition, members divided into grade-level reading groups to begin the task of organizing their reading for the year.

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FAMILIES CONNECTING ACROSS GENERATIONS WORKSHOP

Wellness and Support Services is partnering with Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI) to bring workshops educating families on preparing for their children's future with a culturally focused parenting workshop series, “Families Connecting Across Generations.” The workshop is designed to help navigate across generational and cultural differences. Topics include parenting skills to help promote the bicultural identity of immigrant children, manage stress, enhance parent-child understanding, and effectively utilize rules, reinforcement, and consequences in this country. The workshop will run every Wednesday through December 11 with no class on November 27 from 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. at Palo Alto High School, Room 301. For more information and to register please contact the facilitator, Yifan Wang, Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (AMFT) at 650-329-3999 ext. 6975, or by email. You can register at Eventbrite.

NAVIANCE COLLEGE & CAREER PLANNING PLATFORM TRAININGS

Research Evaluation & Assessment Team partnered with Wellness & Support Services to offer a variety of Naviance workshops to school counselors, administrators, and support program leaders on Thursday, September 26, at Gunn High School. Naviance is the College and Career Planning Tool for our district. The workshops were designed to build awareness of the recently enhanced features of Naviance, increase depth of understanding and fluency with the tool, and to develop scope and sequences that will help staff, students, and families know what to expect from the post high school planning process. Participants engaged with features of Naviance that help expand perspectives of college and career paths available to current students.


Expanded support of use of the platform is expected to especially benefit first-generation college students; tools include career cluster interest finder, free test prep for the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and American College Testing (ACT) exams, tools for parents to look ahead to financial planning, a comprehensive scholarship database and by-school estimated aid packages based on family needs. All students will benefit from expanded resources for career and life planning discernment, including virtual “road trips” to campuses and a library of interviews of people talking about their career paths in fields that are matched with student interest.


Sessions Included:


  • Naviance Overview Training
  • College and Career Preparation Scope and Sequence Planning
  • Going Deeper with Naviance
  • eDocs for Teachers - Completing College Recommendations

PAUSD WORKFORCE HOUSING

The Board of Education will discuss the possibility of creating workforce housing at their regularly scheduled meeting on October 15th. The District owns property at 525 San Antonio Blvd. that could serve as a site for a future housing project. No vote or action is anticipated in the near future. Instead, the Board of Education will have several sessions to examine the issue from multiple angles.

FAMILY FUN DAY

The Special Education Department joined the Community Advisory Committee hosted Family Fun Day. The event was well attended and provided District staff the opportunity to spend time with our families and children. The event was made possible through the support of many volunteers. In addition, the Special Education and the Wellness and Support Services Departments have begun meeting on a monthly basis for the purpose of developing training for staff who are supporting students with health concerns.

VISUAL AND PERFORMING ARTS

In October, music students combine across grade levels and schools to perform together at football games, evening concerts, and festivals. Listed here are a few highlights from those events. See here for the PAUSD Performing Arts Calendar.

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AMERICAN COLLEGE TESTING (ACT) AND PREPARATION

On September 14, 21, and 28, PAUSD held an ACT preparation course for first generation students at the District Office at no cost, 17 students participated in the course. Students shared that they felt prepared to take the exam and enjoyed the opportunity to take the course. All students were eligible to receive a free ACT prep book. Both high schools participated in administering the ACT to first generation and low-income students free of charge on October 1 during the school day. Over 190 students participated in the test administration.

ELEMENTARY SATURDAY ACADEMIC BOOST AND ENRICHMENT PROGRAM (SABE)

The Saturday program is funded by the Low Performance Student Grant through the California Department of Education. The grant is funded by one-time monies from the state that is meant to target students who scored a 1 or 2 on the California Assessment for Student Performance (CAASP), and are not identified as special education. The Office of Academic Supports coordinates the program and will be sending invites to eligible elementary students. The fall SABE program will focus on mathematics, and the spring SABE program will shift to literacy. Students will rotate among three classes; math Dreambox class, math application, and an enrichment arts/science component. The Dreambox program is computer-based, interactive, and adjusts to student levels. The teacher is able to view student progress and identify in real time areas of student need and pull a student to provide individualized instruction. Students will be provided a brunch during the day. The elementary program will begin on October 19 at Fairmeadow Elementary.

COMMUNITY EVENTS CALENDAR

District Office departments and members of the PTA Executive Council are collaborating on ways to better coordinate family engagement events and provide effective and equitable promotion and support. The Fall edition of the Community Events Calendar is a result of this collaboration. For registration or current event information contact your PTA, the host or Wellness & Support Services.

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