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Piedmont Unified School District Newsletter - Week 5 Update

September 5, 2023

Dear Piedmont USD Families,

Welcome to week 5--a short week! Below you will find information on the following topics:

  • Communication & Staff Compensation
  • Strategic Plan: Engagement Sessions
  • Superintendent’s Advisory Council
  • Thinking About AI & Education - Pulse Check
  • Future Topics
  • News & Notes

In Partnership,

Jennifer Hawn, Ed.D.


Communication & Staff Compensation

As PUSD begins the process of negotiations later this week with APT, the topic of how much we pay teachers is front of mind for me. The reality is that California has never paid teachers enough, and living in the East Bay reinforces this point with inflation currently listed at 4.9% as of April 2023. California school finance depends on the state budget for much of the funding that makes up school budgets; however, Piedmont USD is unique in that only 61% of our budget comes from state and federal sources. This matters because cost of living increases (COLA) included in the state budget impact our budget at 61%, with the remainder of the PUSD budget coming from local funding, thanks to the generous contributions of our parents. As I learn more about our current budget, I can see that the amount available for raises is fixed. You might wonder why this is the case. Schools build a budget the year before, and the majority of our budget is in people. No one wants to cut our amazing people, and this type of change would have to be decided the year prior to implementation.

Over the next 6-9 months, I will be analyzing all aspects of our budget and bringing updates to you regarding how we might look at our budget differently. If you wish to learn more about our budget or have ideas on how we might look at our budget differently, we have several ways to engage. First, our Board meetings feature regular presentations throughout the year on our budget cycle, including an update at our September 13th Board meeting on our unaudited actuals (a budget update that reflects how much we actually have in the budget as of the first 45 days of the fiscal year, July 1 - present). Second, we have a Budget Advisory Committee that meets monthly to review our budget and provide input on revenue and expenditures. Finally, I will be communicating budget information in my newsletter to keep families informed.

I will also share that I have learned that our teachers are interested in direct communication with our families. On September 7th, you may see teachers rallying in front of our schools during drop-off in the morning. You have probably already guessed that I am very interested in effective communication, and I support our teachers in their desire to create awareness around teacher compensation. To that end, I have offered our teachers’ union (APT) the opportunity to write a joint communication, which would be written by APT and PUSD (namely, Dr. Marks and myself). Until then, if our APT members are rallying at drop-off on 9/7, I encourage you to talk to them to hear their perspective. I will close by reaffirming my deep respect for our APT members and our commitment to collaborating with our labor partners to provide competitive compensation. We are in this together.

Strategic Plan: Engagement Sessions

Parents and Students, The Board and I will be coming to meet with you at various meetings over the next several months to share information about our Strategic Plan. These sessions are a continuation of the work the Board started last year in the development of a new vision, mission and core values. The next step in this process is to develop strategic priorities along with new learning goals that are part of Board policy 0200 and 0210. One idea we are exploring is a graduate profile to help us better define student learning goals, which would serve as a TK-12+ guide for the knowledge, skills and habits we want our students to have upon graduation from PUSD. In addition to staff sessions that have already started, we are planning student and family sessions, starting with Havens on 9/14 at 6:00 p.m. More details to follow for sessions at our other schools. We look forward to gathering your input to guide our work in the years ahead.

Superintendent’s Advisory Council

I am thrilled to launch our first SAC meeting this week with a new and fantastic council who will provide input on issues facing our district. Congratulations to our new parent members, including the following:

  • Beach - Helen Kang

  • Havens - Laura Cocas

  • Wildwood - Michael Malione

  • MHS - John Hiestand

  • PHS - Alissa Welch

  • PMS - Diana Lee

Also, we are excited to have our two new student Board members join us: Orla Cohen from MHS and Siddharth Bhatia from PHS.

Our group also includes the following staff, community and Board members:

  • Elise Marks - PHS Teacher

  • Jennifer Kessler - Wildwood Teacher

  • Lise Dahms - Beach Paraeducator

  • Anne Valva - Beach Principal

  • Mary Leon - Administrative Assistant to Ed Svcs

  • Heather Frank - PEF Executive Director

  • Lindsay Thomasson - Board Member

  • Cory Smegal - Board Member

I will be sending out updates in my newsletter about our work, and I encourage you to reach out to any of our council members if you have ideas to share.

Thinking About AI & Education - Pulse Check

I have been thinking a great deal about how artificial intelligence may influence teaching and learning in our schools, and I am interested in gathering some early input from you in this short survey. I have begun attending conferences and reading a number of articles in preparation for what might lead to an AI plan for our district; however, the information is vast and sometimes contradictory. For example, I asked Google’s Generative AI about the pros and cons of AI in education, and received the following response:

Artificial intelligence (AI) in education can have both benefits and challenges. Some benefits include:

  • Personalized learning

  • Feedback on student work

  • New learning reviews

  • Better for students with special needs

  • Intelligent tutoring systems

  • Adaptive group formation

  • 24/7 assistance with conversational AI

  • Detecting suspicious behavior during exams

  • Secure and decentralized learning systems

  • Customized data-based feedback

  • Tailoring education to individual needs

Some challenges include:

  • Job displacement for teachers

  • Dehumanized learning experience

  • Costly to implement for teachers

  • Dependence on technology

  • Ethical considerations, such as ensuring fairness and bias-free AI

  • Privacy and security concerns

  • Emotional intelligence limitations

  • Bias and inequality

  • Maintenance challenges

Quite a range of ideas, as you can see. If you have thoughts on AI’s impact on teaching and learning, I would love to hear from you in this short survey. Thanks for your input.

Future Communication Topics

Future topics include an update on our school calendar survey results and information on our budget. If you have topics you are particularly interested in, please reach out to me at jhawn@piedmont.k12.ca.us.

PUSD News & Notes

Witter Field Renovation Project Updates - For updates on the Witter Field Renovation Project, please go to our Facilities page on our PUSD website. The 9/1 update is available now.

Community Pool Construction Update - Safety measures around the Community Pool Project construction site on Magnolia Ave. across from PHS/MHS are currently in effect. Visit the City of Piedmont's website for details.

Work for PUSD - PUSD is seeking candidates for a variety of positions. Visit the District's Edjoin page for a complete list of jobs available and to apply online.

Substitutes Needed - Support students while earning up to $200/day. PUSD seeking substitute teachers for the 2023-24 school year. Visit the District's EdJoin page for more information and to apply.

Follow PUSD on Social Media - The District Facebook (@piedmontunified), Twitter (@piedmontunified), Instagram (@piedmontusd) and Threads (@piedmontusd@threads) pages are active.