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Superintendent's Update - December 9, 2022

Superintendent's Update - December 9, 2022

The agenda calendar can be found HERE.

I am lucky to have the ability to visit our sites often. I spent time in classrooms this week and would like to share a few observations in three specific areas.

First, I had the opportunity to visit some co-teaching classrooms at Gunn High School. Co-teaching means the classroom is run by two teachers working as a team, sometimes with the additional support of an instructional assistant. In this model, one of the teachers is typically a content specialist and the partner teacher has a background in special education. Together, they modify curriculum, share responsibilities in delivering instruction, and collaborate daily. The Gunn teams were incredible, and it shows! They have common preparation times and meet routinely. The partnering of teachers is fascinating. In some cases, the teachers are similar, and look like two friends working together. In other cases, they are very different and complement each other. With effort, both scenarios can work. The students clearly benefitted from the classes I observed. Co-teaching will be a focus area heading into next year. We need to evolve from pockets of excellence to consistent practices across PAUSD. I am looking forward to seeing this work progress.

Next, I was able to see one of our teachers provide professional development to her colleagues at Hays Elementary School. Wow! We all learned more about reading in about an hour than I could have imagined. I was also struck at how confusing our language can be to English Learners and those with any disabilities. I am optimistic about our future when it comes to reading instruction and student outcomes. Just as importantly, I am optimistic about our trajectory, because our teachers are investing in their colleagues. It was powerful.

Finally, I was able to meet some of our California School Employees Association (CSEA) members for a dinner this week. It was fun to connect with staff members who make up the fabric of our school district. I sat with a group of our bus drivers for a bit and was humbled by their dedication to our students. Each told me that the reason they became drivers was because they loved kids. That was powerful. I would have guessed that they loved driving and the job happened to be at a school district. That was a false assumption. Instead, they lead with the love of kids and learned to drive our busses. Let that one soak in. Our kids are in great hands, beginning and ending with some fantastic people who drive busses!

The collective bargaining negotiations process occurs each year between management, certificated employees (mostly teachers), and classified employees. During the process, everyone discusses contract language in specific areas with an eye to improving working conditions and remaining competitive with salary and benefits. We invest heavily in the process and forming professional relationships with all bargaining units. Once the representatives of the bargaining units and district management members reach agreements, we enter into Tentative Agreements (TAs). TA’s represent the last step before reaching formal agreements. The bargaining units take the agreements to their members for ratification votes and the District management takes the TAs to the Board of Education for a vote.

We are happy to report that PAUSD and all bargaining units have reached TAs for the 2022-23 school year. They will appear on the December 20 agenda and will return for final approval (assuming positive ratification votes) on January 17. We went through the process this year collaboratively and efficiently. We appreciate all our partners and the fact that we went through the process without creating distractions for students or families. This is not the case in many cases across the region, state, or country. We are thankful!

The current bus driver shortage is not allowing consistent and reliable service to resume within the Stanford West community. PAUSD understands the previous “pay-to-ride” bus service added value to both students and parents. While current vacancies will not permit transportation services for the remainder of the 2022-23 school year, PAUSD continues its efforts to recruit and train drivers.

Stanford West (J Route) and Los Altos Hills (Z Route) transportation service impacting Nixon Elementary, Fletcher Middle, and Gunn High will not resume in January 2023. However, PAUSD will update the community regarding any future changes. Career choices, including retirement options, are encouraging bus drivers (statewide and nationally) to make life choices. PAUSD recognizes that area-wide corporate opportunities, the demand for delivery services to both homes and offices, and decisions made by drivers to become employed within other environments have an ongoing and profound effect on the Palo Alto Unified community and neighboring locations.

Since students remain our most valuable asset, the District will revisit this option prior to the end of the upcoming spring semester. The Board and administrators hear the call from parents. PAUSD now offers an increase in daily hours for bus drivers, provides full-time benefits (medical, dental, vision, and life insurance), and grants relevant in-house driver training.

The critical need to continuously train and maintain additional certified bus drivers is still a priority within the Palo Alto Unified community. Anyone interested in bus driver opportunities may contact 650.329.3982.

Ad hoc committees continue to meet regularly working toward making recommendations. When needed, these committees collect data to inform their discussions. Thank you to the 358 parents and 1,939 staff and students who responded to the Secondary Bell Schedule Input Form.

In addition to data collection through surveys, ad hoc committees may request experts to come and present on certain topics. We thank the staff from various District choice programs who presented to the Choice Program Committee. The collaborative work happening in our ad hoc committees is instrumental to key stakeholders and diverse viewpoints being represented in final recommendations. Minutes for each committee continue to be available on the website on a rolling basis.

We invite you to join a virtual event presented in partnership with Common Sense Media on Wednesday, December 14, 2022, from 7-8 pm. The target audience is middle school parents and guardians, however, all families and staff are welcome. During this session we will build awareness around current online trends and provide resources. We will discuss tools and strategies to help parents guide their middle schoolers in balancing their digital lives and making informed decisions around media and app usage. We will also highlight the work PAUSD is doing at our middle schools to support digital well-being and foster more scholarly and responsible online habits.

Please assist our planning efforts by registering in advance for this event:  The Zoom link will be emailed to respondents by Tuesday, December 13.

In two weeks, the Gunn Chamber Orchestra will be traveling to Chicago, Illinois as invited performers at the prestigious Midwest Clinic International Band & Orchestra Conference. As one of only six high school orchestras from across the country invited, Gunn Chamber Orchestra is honored to represent PAUSD and its commitment to excellence in music education. To learn more about the Midwest Clinic performance and hear students talk about the importance of learning a diverse repertoire of composers in their music education, view this video. Congratulations to our orchestra students and Directors, Sandra Lewis and Tiffany Ou-Ponticelli for this great achievement! There is no cost for admission. We hope to see you there Tuesday, December 13, 7:30 pm at Palo Alto High School Performing Arts Center.

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