Superintendent's Update

THE NATURE OF CHANGE

Successful organizations evolve and adapt over time. They also realize that while change is often solicited on paper, it is also challenged and resisted in practice. The predictable tug of war between change and comfort is healthy, yet tends to land on the side of comfort. Author, William Arthur Ward, describes change in the following, “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” Which are we?


I have been encouraged by our growth and ability to evolve. Change is scary and we have touched a few things. We created transitional kindergarten classes at Duveneck and Barron Park elementary schools this year to provide regional options for students. Both have thrived and are models for implantation of new ways of thinking. We have seen promise in the reconfiguration of our Special Education department and have some thoughts about how to improve in the future. Part of this plan includes bringing non-public school students back to PAUSD, with supports and implementation plans in place to create successful situations for students inadequately served in the past. It is a process, but we are getting some things right.


Not to be lost in our work is the renewed focus on students who have historically struggled in our school system. The creation of Family Engagement Success Coaches has provided a different lens of support for our students. Highlighting the D and F reporting data at our secondary schools will lead to access universally and systematically unmonitored in the past. Action plans implemented earlier this year have promise and the data will inform our next steps in the journey.


Some faces have changed over time and we will continue to experience some turnover in the short-term. Transitions occur for many reasons and need to be evaluated independently. When positions are refilled, attention to expectations, recruitment, and desired qualities will be important for our future success. I have always contended that an organization cannot outperform their employees. Hiring and retaining the best-in-class talent when opportunities arise is one of our most important duties and will never be taken lightly.


Change for the sake of change never ends well. Conversely, strategic changes that are within the capacity of our people can positively impact our students. We are close to transitioning from a change state to a commitment to stability. Our future is bright and full of optimism. As always, I want to thank everyone for their contributions to this school district. It is a special place!

GRADING PRACTICES & HOMEWORK

At the Board of Education’s last meeting (Tuesday, January 14, 2020), members discussed a minor revision to an existing policy to reflect the recommendation of the California School Board Association’s (CSBA) proposed model language. The key change would be to shift away from using homework as a direct factor in determining final grades for courses. Many of our teachers already use systems that align with the proposed revision with great success.


Homework is a topic frequently tied to student well-being and mental health. It is also discussed often when determining the add-in value in relation to the time taken away from other after-school priorities. Our elementary and middle schools have made significant progress reducing homework and we have pockets of success at the high school level as well. The modest revision to Board Policy would further the work, but allow for problem-solving and collaboration of stakeholders along the way.


The topic of standards-based teaching and learning and standards-based grading were introduced during the policy revision proposal. While loosely related, there is no current discussion or plan to expand the Board Policy overview to include standards-based grading. While some of our teachers have organically embraced the principles, we do not see prescription of a large-scale shift to a new model as viable, practical, or universally beneficial at this time. We do plan to encourage education and exploration of the standards-based grading philosophy and will periodically share information and results about some of the pilots occurring around the District.

REORGANIZATION OF AP PHYSICS COURSES AT GUNN HIGH SCHOOL FOR 2020-21

Gunn High School will add a variation of calculus-based AP Physics C to its course catalog next year. AP Physics C: Mechanics will cover the same content as the first semester of the current AP Physics C, but will stretch out the instruction over the whole year, preparing students to take the AP Physics C test for Mechanics. The current calculus-based AP Physics C class prepares students for two AP tests – Mechanics and Electromagnetism. The revised course model will encourage science and engineering for more students, meeting them where they are and providing them with an appropriate opportunity to begin a study in advanced physics. Students will be given guidance as to which of the Physics courses might best meet their needs, in consideration of their fluency with calculus, other course selections, interests, and goals.

VISUAL & PERFORMING ARTS (VAPA)

Nine PAUSD music teachers attended the International Band and Orchestra Conference, December 18-21 in Chicago. The conference is the largest of its kind in the world, with over 90 clinics, 50 concerts, and 400 companies exhibiting music products. There were over 18,000 attendees from all 50 states and more than 30 countries. The PAUSD team is assembling materials to share with colleagues at the February staff development day.

EMBRACING CULTURAL DIVERSITY IN MATHEMATICS

The Elementary Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSAs) attended the California Mathematics Council (CMC) Conference, titled Embracing Cultural Diversity in Mathematics, on December 6-8, 2019. Some of the highlights of this conference included a protocol called Notice & Wonder: A Culturally Responsive Routine for the Mathematics Classroom, Structures for Analyzing Student Work, and Incorporating Equity into the Lesson Study Process. The conference was timely and sparked many powerful ideas for the TOSA Team to carry back to PAUSD for future Professional Development.

DYSLEXIA WORK PROGRESSES

At the last Reading Specialist meeting, the group reviewed the Elementary Dyslexia Screening and Identification Process flowchart (draft). This flowchart will guide the steps for administering the screening, assessments, and the next steps for supporting students in a consistent manner across the District. The final flowchart will be one of the updates that will be shared with the Board in March as well as the Kindergarten Shaywitz screening results which are currently being completed.


On December 13, the Elementary Education Department had a conference call with Dr. Sally Shaywitz, renowned dyslexia researcher. Dr. Shaywitz reached out to us after hearing about the important work PAUSD is doing to screen students for dyslexia. She congratulated our efforts, reminded us about the impact dyslexia can play on struggling students' self-esteem, and shared that a new Shaywitz screening tool for middle school students will be released early in 2020.

ELEMENTARY SUMMER SCHOOL

The Elementary Summer School General Education program is currently reviewing and staffing all positions for the upcoming 2020 session. The program will be held at Duveneck and Fairmeadow Elementary Schools. This four-week program will provide enrichment and academic support for rising K-5 students who qualify for summer school.

UPCOMING PARENT ENGAGEMENT – SAVE THE DATES

PAUSD continues to partner with PTAC and school PTSAs to host a variety of events and workshop series. Families are encouraged to save the date for events of interest:


  • January 21 at 6:30 p.m., Building Healthy Relationships & A Culture of Consent with Anea Bogue, Board Room, 25 Churchill
  • January 22 at 7:00 p.m., Refugee Youth Event, Newberry Medalist Katherine Applegate, Fletcher Middle School
  • January 23 at 8:30 a.m., Community Leaders Breakfast: Teen Vaping Epidemic & Preventing Vaping Outbreak, Palo Alto Medical Foundation
  • January 23 at 6:30 p.m., Screenagers: The Next Chapter Movie, Gunn High School
  • January 29 at 9:00 a.m., Teen Social Media Panel Notes to My Middle School Self, Fletcher Middle School
  • February 22 at 9:00 a.m., PAUSD Family Leadership Summit, Gunn High School
  • February 24 at 7:00 p.m., Mindful Monday Parent Workshops begin, JLS Library
  • February 26 at 6:30 p.m., Screenagers: The Next Chapter Movie, Greene Middle School

MINDFUL MONDAY PARENTING WORKSHOPS

Wellness & Support Services and South Asian Parents Association (SAPA) are partnering to host Mindful Parenting Workshops on Monday evenings February 24 through April 27.

During this seven-week workshop series, parents will learn a philosophy and practice of parenting that is based on mindfulness, connection, and empathy that is not permissive. They will explore topics such as nonviolent communication, brain development, setting limits, recognizing and managing anger, and more. The classes will be an interactive experience with presentations of mindful parenting tools and concepts, meditations, group and individual activities, and group discussions. Space is limited, please RSVP on Eventbrite.

CAREER AND ADVANCEMENT FAIR

The Human Resources Department is excited to announce the second annual PAUSD Career and Advancement Fair, which will be held at Palo Alto High School in the Peery Family Center Gym on Saturday, March 14. Thanks in advance for supporting our efforts to recruit and retain an excellent workforce in PAUSD.

THE CORRELATION BETWEEN CONSENT, HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS, & STUDENT PERFORMANCE

Please plan to join PAUSD staff and subject matter expert, Anea Bogue, for an important parent discussion and Q&A session on Tuesday, January 21, at 7:00 p.m. in our District Office Board Room.


During the 2019-20 school year, we have moved towards deepening our work with students through an approach of smaller workshop format. Our foundational goals are focused on shared learning around building healthy relationships and creating a culture of consent, both of which are important components of an environment in which students can thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. Growing research indicates strong correlations between healthy relationships and a person’s ability to perform at their highest potential. Consent is a key component of healthy relationships.


The content of this event is specifically designed to address middle and high school matters, but all interested parents and community members are invited to attend. To register or for more information, please visit the Eventbrite page.

NOTES TO MY MIDDLE SCHOOL SELF

Invitation for all Middle School parents and guardians! Please consider attending a moderated teen panel discussion: Notes to My Middle School Self, a conversation about the good, the bad, and the realities of the social media landscape in middle and high school.


The event will be held on Wednesday, January 29, 9:00-10:30 a.m., in the Fletcher Middle School Library. This event is in partnership with Common Sense Media and other local area schools and is free for attendees. Space is limited; RSVP required! For registration and more information, please visit the Common Sense Media website.

SCHOOLOGY PARENT ACCOUNT CHANGES

All PAUSD parents and guardians will be given new parent Schoology accounts on Tuesday, January 28. These new Schoology accounts will be available through the PAUSD ID portal, along with access to the PAUSD website and Infinite Campus.


PAUSD is making this change to parent Schoology accounts in order to provide better support to PAUSD Schoology users, as well as a consistent Schoology experience throughout our school district.

MIDDLE SCHOOL STAFF ATTEND RESTORATIVE PRACTICES WORKSHOPS

In the past month, approximately 25 staff members, representing Fletcher, Greene, and JLS Middle Schools, along with the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) TOSA, attended day-long summits in San Jose to learn more about restorative practices. Aligned with the PAUSD Promise, restorative practices is one component of a positive behavior system that will lead to a culture where all students feel safe, welcomed, respected, and valued as part of the school community. Different from traditional discipline that focuses on negative consequences and punishment, restorative practices strategies focus on strengthening relationships between individuals, as well as social connections within communities, so that the relationships can be repaired when issues arise.

SATURDAY ACADEMIC BOOST AND ENRICHMENT PROGRAM (SABE)

The Saturday Academic Boost and Enrichment classes for elementary and middle school students ended on December 7. Over 110 students attended the Saturday program and they enjoyed creating community art projects at the elementary site while learning test taking strategies and working on math problem solving skills. The middle school students focused on test taking strategies while also enjoying an enrichment component. The Saturday program will begin again in February for elementary and middle school.