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Superintendent's Update - April 12, 2024

Superintendent's Update - April 12, 2024

From the Office of the Superintendent .  .  .

Board Agenda Calendar

View Calendar of Board Items 2023-24

Superintendent Austin’s Message . . .

Sometimes you set out for a purpose and discover there was a different purpose you were meant to discover. That happened to me this week when I had time to squeeze in three elementary school visits in a couple hours. I expected to visit quickly with each principal, say hello to the office staff, and to walk through a handful of classrooms. I didn’t set my bar high enough!

I observed many things during my quick stops. Each campus looked beautiful and orderly. One stop, however, was very special. I told the principal to take me wherever she wanted. The first class gave me an opportunity to see Spectra Art, financed through Partners in Education (PiE). The instructor was amazing and the kids were bursting with positive energy. Next, we saw our music teacher playing an instrument and singing with kids who were also clapping along with joy. The third stop was in the library where we saw our librarian teaching a class to a group of very happy and engaged students.

I thought back on my visit and considered how lucky we are to be in Palo Alto. I was able to see a fully supported art program at the elementary level, made possible by our giving families. I saw a credentialed elementary music teacher working with a single class. Finally, I saw a fully-credentialed teacher / librarian at an elementary school delivering a powerful lesson. For context, these things don’t happen in most school districts. Other classes included language immersion programs, use of technology, and strong instructional practices. On the way out, I stopped to watch our fully-credentialed PE teacher work with students with a strong focus on Social Emotional Learning (SEL). Wow!

Earlier this morning I went to Greendell to see our littlest learners participate in Athletes Day. I have attended this special event in the past and always look forward to seeing our kids. This year it evolved. The activities were set up by our Post-Secondary Program students, who are currently housed at the Cubberley Center, next door to Greendell. Hoover students, who have been temporarily relocated to the Greendell campus for construction purposes, also came out to support and cheer on the little ones. Combine that with some amazing adults and spectacular weather, and we had a TREMENDOUS day!

We are nearing the end of the year, but things are still humming. Schools look as alive today as they did in October! That is a testament to all those who work together to make this a special place. Thank you!

Mutual Declaration for Negotiations Impasse

PAUSD and the Palo Alto Educators Association (PAEA) have mutually declared an impasse for negotiations. In the simplest terms, an impasse means we agree that we are stuck. We have met together for over 50 hours this year, in addition to preparation efforts on both sides. In the end, we are a single team and a settlement is in our future.

For most people, this is already more information than you needed. Others of you would like to see more details about how things have progressed, current offers, implications, and supporting data. For those of you who would like to explore in more detail, we have created a dedicated webpage for PAEA Negotiations.

Palo Alto Earth Day Festival on April 21

The City of Palo Alto’s Office of Sustainability will host the Palo Alto Earth Day Festival on Sunday, April 21 at Rinconada Library. Palo Alto Student Climate Coalition and Fletcher Middle School Green Team will both be in attendance, as well as City staff and local environmental organizations. There will be many opportunities for students to learn how they can get involved in climate action in Palo Alto, as well as lots of fun activities for the whole family, including an upcycled craft activity, live animal encounters, and the electric waste truck. View the event flyer and you can find more info on the event webpage.

Early Literacy and Equity and Excellence

Bringing diverse perspectives to students through author visits, while providing the opportunity to learn about the writing process from professional writers, is an essential aspect of the library program, and also part of the PAUSD Promise Goals for Early Literacy and Equity and Excellence.

Bay Area author Sonali Patodia visited elementary schools and shared with Kindergarten through Grade 2 students the motivation for her debut picture book,  You’re Truly One of a Kind. Born in India, Sonali’s cultural traditions and values are the inspiration behind her book. Its message is that we are all individuals with unique qualities that contribute to our diverse and beautiful world! 

Mental Health and Wellness in PAUSD

Our commitment to mental health and student support is a critical component of the PAUSD Promise. 

We are dedicated to raising student awareness about mental health resources, encouraging open conversations with trusted adults, and building strong partnerships with parents. Empowering students to recognize when they or their peers need help fosters a supportive school culture. Four key initiatives highlight the District’s dedication to ensuring that every member of the PAUSD community has a sense of belonging and connection:

  1. Establishing the School-Based Mental Health Program

  2. Increasing student awareness of mental health supports

  3. Prioritizing mental health education and training 

  4. Fostering staff mental wellness

Equally vital is supporting staff well-being as they care for the well-being of students. Initiatives like the onsite mental health care program ensure that our staff have the resources they need for their own mental wellness. By prioritizing mental health awareness, support, and self-care, we strengthen the entire PAUSD community. Stay tuned for updates on Mental Health programming and services at the April 23 Board of Education meeting.

Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) Highlights

Dedicated music, art, and physical education (PE) teachers at elementary schools provide invaluable benefits to young learners. Credentialed music teachers inspire creativity and cognitive skills through music literacy, melody and rhythm, while our teaching artists foster self-expression and visual communication. Credentialed PE teachers promote physical health and teamwork, nurturing resilience in students. In PAUSD, K-3 students attend music and PE weekly, and Grades 4 and 5 attend twice each week. Additionally, all PAUSD K-5 students receive 24 weeks of art lessons during the school year. All programs are aligned with National Arts and PE Standards. Together, our team provides a holistic educational experience, fostering creativity, physical fitness, and personal growth in every student. A special thank you to Partners in Education (PiE) for their generous support of VAPA programs!

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