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Superintendent's Update - December 17, 2021

We have many things to be thankful for over the last calendar year. Most importantly, PAUSD returned fully in the fall and school has felt like school again. There is no need to rehash everything that went into our full reopening. Everyone knows it was challenging and complicated. Instead, I would like to simply offer a sincere thank you to everyone. Thank you to all PAUSD employees who made it happen at the highest level.

When we return, PAUSD will continue to build on the momentum from the first semester. Focus on Mental Health, Service to Others, Early Literacy, Equity, and Healthy Attendance have yielded positive results. Sustaining efforts in these areas will lead to exciting outcomes for our students in the future.

We know the importance of school meals in fueling both healthy minds and bodies. Even though school meals may look a little different during the 2021-22 school year, please know that our school nutrition team is working hard to ensure students have safe, nutritious, and appealing meals that meet United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) standards.

The Food Services Department is working to overcome food supply and labor challenges related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency so that students continue to receive school meals. We have served over 372,000 meals this school year and are projected to serve almost 1 million meals by year's end!

Please check out the December Food Service Newsletter for the latest information on the new California Universal Free Meal Program, and all that is happening in Food Services.


Decodable Texts
As TK through third-grade teachers across the PAUSD continue their Orton-Gillingham (OG) instruction, they provide students with decodable texts that align with the new sound/symbol being taught. The texts are considered decodable because most of the words can be blended or sounded out by the students, or include "Red Words," or non-decodable words that readers need to know by sight and cannot decode or sound out. Decodable texts include poems, chants, and books that students can read independently with very little adult support.

Adults find decodable books easy and often wonder why students read them? For our emergent readers, and students with Dyslexia, learning phonics, matching the different letter-sound combinations to print, such as long vowel team sounds like /ai/ in snail or /ea/ in peak, can be difficult. Decodable books provide novice readers with the opportunity to practice these new phonics skills repeatedly in one text. As a result, confidence, automaticity, and fluency are established. Students with strong oral language, who read fluently, with expression and punctuation, often have more robust reading comprehension. Reading is a complex task that also requires vocabulary and content knowledge. By providing our primary grade students with decoding strategies and decodable texts to strengthen their skills, students can focus their cognitive energy on the essential aspect of reading, making meaning.

What about Real Books?
During Reader's Workshop, students are reading trade books; these are books written by children's book authors. Children go "book shopping" for these books in their classroom libraries. They are in the school, children's library, or bookstore. Some teachers may provide students with guided reading books written by authors for book publishers specifically for teaching reading. These books are often a bridge from decodable texts to more sophisticated trade books.

As part of the Every Student Reads Initiative, decodable books have been selected with an eye toward equity, inclusion, a meaningful story, or informative content. In the new year, all elementary schools will receive new books to increase the number of texts available to students as they practice their foundational skills. We are growing readers and transforming lives!